Wednesday, February 15, 2017
How To Write Something Ridiculous
It’s healthy for a writer to go off the rails every so often.
A while back, my older sister and I used to compose comical “seals of approval” for each other, usually with themes like Disney films, the Narnia series, or the computer game Oregon Trail. Of course, due to sibling-fueled escalation, these tokens grew and multiplied, each outdoing its predecessor in outright silliness, until—I’m pretty sure my sister thought of it first—the seal was a story. It was a story that made no sense. Granted, we were trying to make them make no sense, but considering the fact that we were kids at the time, the results were more psychedelic than we could ever have imagined. And they almost made sense. They were half-page long Rube Goldberg machines built out of fantastic plot devices and bizarre ex machinas.
Now, I present this to you as another writing challenge. (I’ve done this before in a collegiate creative writing class, FYI.)
So here’s what you do: first, go crazy (it helps). Second, think of a destination—for example, how to find a burrito. Finally, slam out a rough draft using every single weird thing you can think of. Throw in the kitchen sink. Throw in the sinking kitchen! Just make sure that, by the end of the process, you have something that is logical and has absolutely no bearing on reality.
I’ll provide a sample, using the example destination I provided above. Here we go…
HOW TO FIND A BURRITO
To begin, put a ball of cheese in your pocket and take a running leap off the high diving board when the pool has no water. This should anger the minor sea god Chlorinus (demoted for introducing Alka-Seltzer to Neptune’s domain), causing him to blast you into a harp seal—a species considerably more padded than the regular non-obese human and therefore able to withstand the fall to the pool bottom. Before Chlorinus realizes he’s essentially saved your life, you should be then rescued by the Humane Society that has mistaken you for a maltreated beagle, whisking you away towards their secret headquarters dedicated to making animals less “humane”. You should resume your normal form before they equip you with tactical assault weapons (again, Chlorinus was a minor deity), and you’ll have to sneak yourself into the Society’s database to search for hot-air balloon services, replacement bulldozer parts, and rubber band factories. Since those first two data files are basically useless, you’ll then have to find the second-best rubber band factory so that you can construct a tennis racket completely out of rubber bands. This should attract the notorious Tennis Toad; when he appears on the horizon, bring out the cheese from your pocket, which at this point should be so old and fuzzy that it resembles a tennis ball. When the Tennis Toad eats the ball in his enthusiasm, though, he’ll realize he’s been tricked and will slam your racket down over your head—but since it’s made of rubber bands, this will only cause you minor damage while the elastic rebound will catapult the Toad into the lower atmosphere. It’s at this point, at the apex of his flight, that you must ask him if he can see a burrito from up there.
…So, unless you work for Looney Tunes or you develop those arbitrary fantasy quests, this exercise might not be so helpful you. It was for me; abandoning reasonable plot lines is oddly relaxing, and it made the writing flow easier. Or at least faster.
But don’t ask me why it was so easy to think of all that nonsense.