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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Friday Challenge - 4/3/09

Meager turnout for the 3/27/09 Friday Challenge. As of this morning, we have but two entries.

Snowdog, "Drummer Girl"

Arisia, "The Yellow Time Machine"

Anyone else?

(SFX: Sound of crickets chirping)

Okay, quick judging this time. As always, even if you didn't submit an entry, you're invited to read, comment on, and vote for your favorite, with the winner to be announced Sunday.

Amended 4/4/09

Now, as for this week's challenge, I'd like to begin by introducing new intermittent contributor Kersley Fitz:

There are a lot of Bad Rules for Writing, and "write what you know" is probably one of the worst, or at least, one of the most frequently misunderstood. I hold this piece of advice personally responsible for all those whiney novels about angry middle-aged housewives, those excruciating short stories about the terrible angst of growing up gay and Jewish in suburban New York, those tedious novels about 20-somethings with newly minted MFAs who are breaking up with their girlfriends and struggling to find their existential purpose, and above all, for all those wretchedly unreadable novels about middle-aged small-town college professors who are going through midlife crises, estranged from their own children, separated from their wives, and agonizing over their desire to have an affair with that hot and perky 19-year-old in their 1000 MWF English 201 class. (Or perhaps even worse yet: the corresponding attempted novels by hot and perky but marginally literate 19-year-olds who are creeped-out by the way that smelly old professor—I mean, really old, like, he must be like, 45!—stares at them all the time in their 1000 MWF English 201 class, but then again they're just starting to realize there might be an easier way to get an "A" than by reading that big fat book by that Moby guy.)

C'mon people, this is fiction! "Write what you know" isn't a license to whine at length about all the tedious and frustrating details of your daily life! It's a spice you can use to add flavor to what you write! Use it sparingly!

Write what you don't know! Write what nobody knows! If you've had an interesting life, write an autobiography! If you're only twenty years old and all you know is what you've read in other people's books or seen on TV, get out of the dorm and live a little! If you're writing science fiction because you are in fact the latest reincarnation of an alien who was exiled to Earth ten million years ago and you must purge all your negative memories before you can be at peace—look, they've made great strides in psychiatric meds in recent years and you really should give them another chance.

As proof of how worthless the "write what you know" dictum is, I hereby submit into evidence the following song lyrics, which I wrote shortly before I realized that "fiction writer" is simply a euphemism for "paid professional liar," after which I gave up on all this reality and authenticity nonsense and got down to being successful.

To fully appreciate this song, you first must know that this is where I grew up:

Now imagine it opening with a kind of anthemic sax and scat-singing motif, settling into a sort of bluesy Springsteeny C-Am-F-G progression, and—
My parents inherited an awful lot of money,
they invested it in real estate.
We had a lot of working slobs for tenants
and we kept a yacht down in the bay.

Dad had it tough, he commuted thirty miles
to his office, every day-ay-ayyyyyyyyy....

You're living in the working class
I can't relate to you
You're living in the working class
and I'm front-page news
You're living in the working class
I never paid no dues
Living in the working class,
living in the working class,
don't expect me -e -e
to sing you blues.

2nd verse
My parents sent me off to private schools
to keep me safe from spades and spics.
Then I got a scholarship and went to college
where I scored with a lot of chicks.
When I was twenty-one I signed with RCA
you might say I had it ma-a-aaaaaaade...

repeat chorus

1 verse saxophone solo, ending with vamp on C

You may think I don't give half a rat's ass about you
believe me man, that ain't true.
I really hope that you can keep your job
so I can sell more records to you.

When my rockin' days are over I'll be an assistant professor!
I'll teach songwriting at UCLA-A-AAAAAA....

repeat chorus 2x, segue to anthemic motif, end

"Cool," you say with a slight shudder. "Now where the heck is the Friday Challenge in all this?" Well this week, we're presenting you with three challenges: pick one. You can write—

1. A song. Or rather, write the lyrics for a pop song that really, truly, expresses how you feel, and that you would dearly love to see someone else perform, just once, on, say, American Idol. Watch the profanity, please.

2. Writing Advice. Tell us about the worst piece of advice that you as a writer have ever received, and why it was so bad.

3. What you know. Tell us a story that either supports or refutes my the assertion that "write what you know" is a bad idea. Nothing that will get you disowned or divorced, please.

As always, we're playing by the slightly outdated Official Rules of the Friday Challenge, and playing for your choice of whatever is behind Door #3. The deadline for entries is midnight Central time, Thursday, April 9.

And remember, have fun!
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