Real coconuts and robot iguanas

I started my new writing class, Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, yesterday. I had a good experience with the Writing Short Stories class I took with the same instructor, Nils Osmar, and I figured some new  perspectives and other people’s creativity would be inspiring. The class is full of people who haven’t written much even though it says it’s for all levels. Demographics are college-aged to middle-aged individuals with almost equal gender representation. I’ve noticed White, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern students. I’m excited about people being beginners because it encourages Shoshin, a Zen concept that means ‘beginner’s mind.’ We are eager to learn more and open to new ideas. Unfortunately there are lots of preconceptions about writing that filter down to the general populace that will restrict us. I hope to see raw ideas and foreign contortions of concepts.

We breezed through narrative structure, characters, and reincorporation before getting our first assignment: write a short story (or fragment) that has a protagonist named Jack. We had a choice of professions, objects, and genre elements to incorporate, as well as the line, “you’d better feed it.” I went at the assignment with a variation of a scene from a bigger story. A gonzo journalist crashes a party and proceeds to exasperate several individuals while trying to uncover a larger plot. I didn’t know the details, and I still don’t know most of them. When I’m writing I sometimes have lines I want to use, but am not sure where. I got to the point where I wanted Jack to interview an artist and have it degenerate into “So you’re going to build an army of robot iguanas to compete in demo derby.” How I get there from where I am is one of the bigger challenges of writing for me. I tend to know the beginning, the end, and some points in between, but don’t know which paths to take. While I was mulling over the robot iguanas, I thought “they have real coconuts at this party.” Why is that important? I don’t know. Is it? It sounds inherently humorous, and Jack is an absurd character. Perhaps it will fit in later in the scene.

Due to class, my writing will be less self-directed for a few weeks. Some of it may fit into a bigger story. Some of it will be one-off sketches. I’m eager for both. I’m curious about how many projects writers work on at a time: I have one big story I’m working on, no others tearing at my mind that they want to be on my computer. Would it be a good idea to switch gears more often? Writing is a different gear than I have at work, but would variety shake me out of a stale frame or distract me from my bigger picture?

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