Beginnings (Writing Exercise #3)

I am the worst at discipline. Writing shouldn’t feel like a chore, should it? I don’t even want to admit how long it took me to write the following blurb. It’s not even good. But it’s an exercise in developing discipline and exploring style. Read it if you like, but this is more for posterity purposes than anything.



What I am saying now is a lie.


Will Armand shot and killed a fourteen-year-old girl one night when he had too much to drink. If he did it before, he’ll do it again. History, after all, is subjective. Those with superior powers of diction and persuasion are the ones who get to alter the course of history, whether it has actually passed into history or not. A flimsy line of evidence is enough for conviction.

History… has proven this.

You might think to yourself that this is not fair, but it is. It is the way the world was ordered from the beginning.

Will Armand was destined to take the fall for your mistake. Just like you are destined to take advantage of his destiny. Neither of you can help the predicament you are now in. You must fully realize—and this is important—that nothing you’ve done or could have done would have changed anything.

You’re sitting in that faux leather chair across from me right now with a look of confusion, but I should let you know that you are not the first person to sit in that chair and give me that look. I’ve worked wonders for those people and I will do the same for you. Now you are about to nod to indicate that you understand me.

You didn’t nod.

You should believe me.

Well… You’ll see soon enough.


I am not an evil man. I am not an evil man. I am not an evil man.

He can’t do this to me. I never wanted to destroy anyone or anything. This has all been one stupid mistake after another.

He sounds confident in himself. And if he’s right, all my problems will go away. They will.

I’ll have to live with this huge lie afterwards, but I can do that. Time heals all wounds, right? Or forgives all sins, or something like that. It will just take time.

This seat isn’t that comfortable to begin with. Maybe the others who sat here before me were just uncomfortable, not confused. Their destinies ended up okay, supposedly. It’s not as if he’s given me a portfolio of his work. I’m just supposed to take him at his word. That’s probably what they did too. Probably.

Well, I didn’t dig myself into this mess, but I guess it’s time to dig myself out.


What I am saying now is the truth.

The Job Interview (Writing Exercise #2)

Write a fragment of a story that is made up entirely of imperative commands. Do this; do that; contemplate the rear end of the woman who is walking out of your life. This exercise will be a sort of second-person narration (the you is implied in the imperative). 500 words +/- 10%.

Get dressed. Wear a suit. Make it look great. Take the time to do it right. Include a tie. Use an uncommon knot. Use a common color. Put on a vest for added, “Wow.” Don’t forget a pocket square. Never forget the pocket square.

Lose some weight; that jacket is like a second skin.

Get your note cards. Sit down.

She will ask you for your name. Tell the truth.

Begin with the first question on the card. Why do you want to get into this field? Now lie.

Start the next question. Lie again. Repeat for the whole of the note cards. Rehearse your answers. Memorize them with every eyebrow raise, every hand gesture, every clearing of your throat. Time your answers perfectly. If the interview goes over twenty-seven minutes, you’ve messed up.

Do it again. Did you get it perfect? Do it again.

Take off your suit. You’re done for the day. Tomorrow the real test begins.

Go to bed. Fall asleep. Wake up. Fall asleep. Wake up. Fall asleep. Turn off your alarm. Fall asleep.

WAKE UP. You’ve overslept. It is not good to be late to an interview. Throw on your suit. If you speed, you can make it on time. Tie the tie perfectly. Use a conventional knot. There’s no time for a vest. You need the extra “Wow.” You have no time for it, though.

You look like a slob.

Jump in the car. You know the way. Pay no heed to the speed limits. You’ll never get the job if you do. Parallel park. Do you have spare change? Forget the meter, then. They never check those things.

Run inside. Tell the receptionist your business. “Ms. Prowski will be with you in a moment.”

Sit down. Wait. Rehearse your lies.

You forgot the pocket square.

Twiddle your thumbs. Twiddle some more. Days from now, whether you get the job or not, twiddle your thumbs.

Look to your left. There’s no one sitting there. Look to your right. One other in the waiting area. He looks much sharper than you do. He’ll get the job.

Your name was called. Follow the lady down the hall. Keep walking. Why are you twiddling your thumbs still? Stop that.

“Ah. So good to meet you.”

Shake her hand. Sit down. What is your name? Tell the truth.

Wait for the first question. Do you remember your lie? Watch her shift her papers. Wait. Anticipate. Twiddle.

She asked the first question. Recite your answer. Don’t forget the accompanying head nods and flips of the hand. You look confident. You sound smart. Days from now, you can look back to this first question and arrogantly assert your strengths.

She asked a second question.  You did not prepare for this. Stop being arrogant. You don’t have the job yet. Think on your feet. Don’t be silent. Speak!

Hold your breath.

You should not have said anything.

She asked a third question. You have no answer for this either. Your world is collapsing.

“We’ll call you if we’re interested.”

Walk slowly back to the car.

There is a ticket on your windshield. Pay it.

Running is no Way of Life (Writing Exercise #1)

Write a 600-word first-person story in which you use the first person pronoun (“I” or “me” or “my”) only two times—but keep the “I” somehow important to the narrative you’re constructing. It is very important in this exercise to make sure your reader is not surprised, forty or fifty words into the piece, to realize that this is a first person narration. Show us quickly who is observing the scene.

Running is no way of life. That’s a lesson you learn incredibly quickly. The coach yells, “RUN!” Step. Step. Step. Step. Exhaustion. It’s the same every time.

I thought there would be a difference if instead of one race, there was a bunch of training and several races over the course of a summer. “The Great Endurance Challenge,” they called it. Would you like to stop being a flabby loser and start being an amazing, fit, champ for life? Take the Great Endurance Challenge and accept a fun-filled future! Self-deprecation aside, it sure sounded motivating. Why not sign up?

Because running sucks. That’s why.

The thought of quitting popped up on day one. Everyone else had the same thought. We kept repeating “This is the worst” with our eyes as we passed each other on the track. But there was always a competitive spirit driving us, so nobody quit (Well, except for that one guy who pushed it too far. Broke his leg. It was incredibly gruesome. Note to self: Quitting is sometimes okay.) Looking in the mirror was an endeavor nobody wanted to go through. So… We endured.

The day of the final race was one of palpable tension. Nobody thought their training was sufficient for the length of the run: five miles. Families sat in the audience, doting over their former flabby losers, unaware of the insurmountable heap of effort necessary to get through this tortuous competition.

Oh yeah. The prize? $100. That’s it. That’s what we were doing this for. “The real prize is to look in the mirror and not be depressed!” our coach would say. No. There are plenty of exercise programs that do not include long-distance running as a training device; programs some would call fun. The Great Endurance Challenge was not fun.

Running is no way of life.

BANG. The gun went off and we all went charging forward. The crowd erupted into cheers with pennants waving and air horns sounding. Their presence seemed to distract from the goal, but then again, what did it matter? I did not want to win. Couldn’t care less about winning. Finishing sometime in the same calendar year would suffice.

Step. Step. Step. Step. Exhaustion.

The cheers from the families and friends grew more and more dim as we all kept going forward. We jogged through town (they had blocked off entire streets of town for this!), passing shops that beckoned us to come inside. Cousin Flo’s Frozen Custard. Mamma Mia’s Pizza Pies. Mulberry Bush Breakfast. All the foods a guy could want were here in town… Teasing… Tempting… Taunting…

Running is no way of life.

There on the side of the road, a low white sign stood. It was supposed to be of encouragement to the runners, surely, but all it succeeded in bringing forth was disappointment. The Great Endurance Challenge: 0.5 miles. There was another four and a half miles of this hell to go?

Running is no way of life.

Why do people do it? It makes no sense. Step. Step. Step. Step. Destination? NOWHERE. It sure is great not being able to breathe. Don’t forget to stretch, or you’ll also get shin splints! Stretched already? Have some shin splints anyway! Why not do it all outside during the summer? People like sweat, right?

Running is no way of life.

Around the two mile mark, the first of us collapsed. Then immediately the second. As if anticipating us stopping, they both yelled, “Keep going!”

Then the third collapsed.

By mile three and a half, we had all fallen on the ground.

Running is no way of life.