Your Friday Writing Challenge: Francine Prose

How about something lighter this week? This exercise comes from the opening pages of Francine Prose’s novel about the creative writing workshop, Blue Angel. 

The protagonist, Ted Swanson, is a tired, frustrated teacher of creative writing. One of his students has written a really bad story, and he has no idea how to begin the class. Here’s an introductory paragraph, setting the scene, and then I’ll leave the next paragraph half-filled in. Write your own version of the second half of that paragraph, and see if you can make it funny. Or tragic. Or strange.

I’ll post the original paragraph in its entirety at the end of the weekend, and we’ll see how we all did.

Here we go:

“Is it my imagination, or have we been seeing an awful lot of stories about humans having sex with animals?”

The students stare at him, appalled. He can’t believe he said that. His pathetic stab at humor sounded precisely like what it was: a question he’d dreamed up and rehearsed as he walked across the North Quad, past the gothic graystone cloisters, the Founders Chapel, the lovely two-hundred-year-old maples just starting to drop the orange leaves that lie so thickly on the cover of the Euston College viewbook. He’d hardly noticed his surroundings, so blindly focused was he on the imminent challenge of leading a class discussion of a student story in which a teenager, drunk and frustrated after a bad date with his girlfriend, rapes an uncooked chicken by the light of the family fridge.

How is Swenson supposed to be begin? What he really wants to ask is: Was this story written expressly to torment me? What little sadist thought it would be fun to watch me tackle the technical flaws of a story that spends two pages describing…

2 thoughts on “Your Friday Writing Challenge: Francine Prose

  1. How is Swenson supposed to be begin? What he really wants to ask is: Was this story written expressly to torment me? What little sadist thought it would be fun to watch me tackle the technical flaws of a story that spends two pages describing the polythene wrapper from which the uncooked chicken first had to be removed. Two pages! As though the writer had decided that what the story really needed, above and beyond the weak portrayal of boy and girl, their drab characterless “argument,” was the insertion of a good portion of the wikipedia page on polythene, its history, molecular codes, and suspected health risks. There, in the end, was the worst thing about the piece–its so literary tone! The story was so bad, it didn’t even know how to be tasteless. Now, staring at his class in desperation, still lacking any idea how to pull a hour’s discussion from this nonsense, Swenson fought the urge to scream at the kid: you couldn’t even fuck a chicken right!

    Like

  2. … describing a nauseating, abnormal, quirky, weired, shocking, ugly, unhygenic thought process of a mentally sick man. Like Blake, Swenson asked the student: Who made thee.
    And without waiting for his response, he blurted out: Devil.

    Liked by 1 person

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