Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: The Writer’s Skill/Craft( 04/22/10)
The Story Bites Back
By Joshua Janoski
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Carl stood frozen as the figure, dressed in a beige overcoat with matching bowler hat, approached him. He extended his hand, and Carl hesitantly shook it.
“Good afternoon, Carl. It’s nice to meet my maker. Enjoying the rain?”
Carl shook his head in disapproval.
“Don’t like it, huh? Well this was your doing. Remember the novel you finished last night? The one you want to self publish? You started chapter one with the line ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’ That’s quite the clichéd beginning if you ask me.”
The mysterious man pulled out a business card from his wallet and handed it to the confused Carl.
“I apologize. Please, allow me to introduce myself. The name’s Mac…Mac Benjamin. I’m a private investigator.“
Carl stumbled backwards in shock. “You…you’re the main character of my book!”
“Yes I am, and in case you wondered, you are dreaming. Follow me over to 23rd Street and I’ll explain more.”
Carl trailed Mac through the alley and over to the connecting street. As Mac stepped from the alley, he vanished.
“Hey there, sugar!”
Carl turned around. “Whoa, you scared me! Who are you? And where’s Mac?”
“Silly, Carl. Don’t you recognize Louisa Rose - hairdresser extraordinaire?”
“Louisa? The hair dresser in my book? I’m so confused!”
“And so are your readers! Mac Benjamin is the main character that drives your book, but every time you switch point-of-views to another character you stick your readers into a new mindset making it difficult for them to relate to Mac and immerse themselves in his story. One moment they are puffing smoke and solving crimes in Mac’s office and the next moment they are sniffing perm chemicals and gossiping with the girls in my shop.“
Louisa rubbed her eye. “This rain is making my mascara run, so I gotta skedaddle. Bye, darling!”
Carl walked to the barbershop across the street and rested outside. His watch had shifted forward twenty-four hours. Mac stepped out the barbershop door.
“Thanks for the trim, Guido!”
“What are you doing?” Carl snapped.
“Remember in chapter four when I was in the middle of solving that murder case, and you decided to skip forward a whole day without letting the readers know what happened during that 24 hours? They had no idea what I was doing during that time and the plot halted. So, I used that time to go to the barber shop and get a haircut. I may grab some food at Joe’s Grill too since wasting a day while knee deep in an urgent case seems like a logical thing to do.”
“Hahahahaha!” A naked man covered in tattoos laughed maniacally as he zipped past Mac and Carl.
“Whoa! Is that Ben the killer? I don’t remember writing him to look like that.”
“That’s Crazy Lars. You introduced him at the very beginning of the book before introducing me. You confused your readers as to who the protagonist of the story was. And the really sad part is that Lars wasn’t even a main character and only lasted a few pages. What do you say we go to my office and further discuss this there?”
Inside Mac’s office, Carl noticed an open file on the desk. His picture was in it along with a list of every major writing mistake in his book.
“I understand this dream now.” Carl said with regret. “You were hired to reel in my bad writing.”
Mac placed a hand on Carl’s shoulder. “I was hired to help you improve your skill and knowledge of the craft. Revise your novel and learn from other writers. Don’t give up, and you’ll be amazed how much things change in this town the next time you visit.”
Light penetrated the office. Carl walked over to the window and peeked down at the street below.
“Wow! Look outside! There are unicorns, butterflies, and rainbows! The rain has turned to gumdrops and the sun is out! Children are singing in the streets! How did this happen, Mac?”
“You used the cliché ending ‘and they all lived happily ever after.'”
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