Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Scratch fiction in 10 steps

Scratch fiction can be a heady antidote to writerly malaise, lack of inspiration, or not enough time to write. If you're despairing at the pile of rewrites on your desk, you can head down to the bar for a Bukowskian binge, or you can write some scratch fiction. I'm not advocating either, necessarily, but scratch fiction won't give you a hangover, and it's not likely to make that doughy guy at the end of the bar with the greasy hair and spittle-glazed lips look charming.

Step 1: Sit in front of computer.

Step 2: Get up and pour a drink. Sit down again.

Step 3: Get up and yell to spouse (or partner, or roommate, or call a friend). Ask for a topic. If you don't want to speak to anyone, pick up a random book, open to a random page, and drop your finger on the page. The word you land on is your topic.
If you don't like the first topic given, you can ask for another.

Step 4: Type a title. This can be the topic you've been given. Or it can be something completely unrelated that the topic makes you think of. Or that the person you asked makes you think of. Maybe the way his glasses reflect the light while he is thinking of a topic makes you think of a shiny beach ball your best friend had when you were three, that you wanted more than anything in the world, so much you got into a fight with your friend and one of you ended up with a bloody nose, which makes you think about how far people will go for stuff they want, so you decide to write a thrilling short piece about a thief, or a junkie, or a concubine. Or maybe you write about two three-year-olds who get into a fight over a beach ball.

Step 5: Type for 15 minutes or so, until the piece is finished. Nope, don't go back and revise - keep typing.

Step 6: I said, keep typing.

Step 7: Stop. Take a drink. What the hell, finish your drink. You've earned it.

Step 8: Read the piece. Fix typos and/or egregious errors, if you must, but do not revise.

Step 9: Hit "publish".

Step 10: Have another drink.

Wait, I did say this wouldn't give you a hangover, right? Then make the drink fruit juice.


Caryn said...

Nice to hear the method. I should try it sometime. I always used to love random writing exercises.

Bones said...

Hey Chems--

Yes, indeedy. It's a great way to relax at the end of the day.

And last night it was a Red Tail Ale and left-over pumpkin pie filling. Mmm.

azuremonkey said...

My Step 3 is "bang head against table". That's also my Step 5.5, 6, 7, and 8.5, which means I get a headache instead of a hangover.

Clearly I'm doing it wrong. Must fix. I will put it down as one of my New Year's resolutions.

LyP said...


I used the technique to get the topic for Unhurried City, which you can find on my dandy site, I wouldn't call the result all that great, but there are some (to me) intriguing bits in it.

I also think it's possible to have a hangover from scratch fiction, depending on the amount of anxiety generated by the process and emotion used to fuel the creation. Unless hangover = aftereffects of alcohol near-poisoning.