Vidal Clootjoy and his dancing rats

June 3, 2012 at 12:46 am (Uncategorized)

Listen Sid, I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it, but we have to do something about the _____.

I’ve had this opening line of a story in my red notebook for two weeks. Underneath it is a list of possible nouns, all of which have a thick black line shot through them. For the life of me, I can’t decide just what it is that Sid doesn’t want to talk about. Is it goats? Ventriloquist dummies? Gorgons? (I think I got a touch desperate there, but I was drinking a bloody mary at the time).

Most of my short stories come from that very first line. They often fall out of my pen and take me completely by surprise, like when I recently wrote ‘My muse is cross-eyed, and I have never liked her.’ I sat for a moment, staring at my own ink, and thought ‘What the hell am I going to do with that?!’ But the story came, and it’s one I’m happy to put my name to.

I’m not sure about Sid, but these are my current stories, and the lines that kick them off.

– Like many stories, this one starts with a moustachioed Flemish man – Stand still while I put the blue cloak on you

–  I have thirteen seconds before I kill him – Thirteen seconds

 –   You never saw it, but there was a rabbit on the ceiling – The ink above us

–    I reached my hand under the flow of water, and somewhere in Romania a man burst into flames – Step into the fishbowl and wait for the cracks

–   She was baking Pfeffernüsse when she heard about the dingo – How beautiful it sounds, when everyone sings

–   It was only when she slid the last needle into my skin that she said it – Something happened to my Wednesday

–    I don’t know, because I wasn’t there, but apparently there was an old man who had birds for hands – The old man with birds for hands

Tonight I’ve been googling, trying to stumble across inspiration for this Sid of mine. And I’ve found there are these mystical online oracles called ‘writing generators.’ Yes, you can just hit a button and have a first line, a character, a name or a title delivered to your screen for you to play with, and add flesh to their bones. While I prefer a more organic approach, you know I couldn’t resist checking it out. All in the name of research, of course.

The first site I found gave me the rather startling name of Rex Rouser. I have to admit I instantly saw old Rex with a velvet smoking jacket, and a unsavoury smile. Not sure I could work him into my notebook, I tried another site, with a much more interesting sense of humour. If anyone can make use of either Knute Cashwell, Gertrude Stankcourt or Vidal Clootjoy, be my guest. It was only when I found Eillyassa Gentleharp that I realised I’d stumbled onto a Dungeons and Dragons generator, and eschewing the chance to reveal my pirate, prison, stripper or smurf name, I headed to character assistance.

I was gifted with this dollop of inspiration: This foul-mouthed guy has almond-shaped coffee-coloured eyes. His thick, curly, yellow hair is shoulder-length and is worn in an impractical style. He is very short and has a feminine build. His skin is cream-colored. He has high cheekbones. His wardrobe is professional, with a lot of green.

I just love the detail in the last sentence, though I couldn’t begin to explain why. It was only when I was offered a full tarot reading for my character (?!) that I moved on to titles.

Do any of these take your fancy? Fish Speaks Hitler / The Accusing Living Carnival / Bites Killed the Studio / The Big Edible Thing or my personal favourite, For All The Dancing Rats. Now that one, I think I could actually work with.

And lastly, some suggested first lines. If you’re ever tempted, try Uncle Jock was obsessed with the landlord or My brother put a curse on a rock star. By the time I got to Mom threw a party for a strange man with a limp, I was starting to get concerned for the mental health of the writer’s family.

I think I’ll stick with Sid, and letting my ink fall where it may. But if anyone has an idea for just what he can’t face, by all means, let me know.

I just hope it’s not ventriloquist dummies. I can’t go through that again.

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2 Comments

  1. Michael said,

    for some reason ‘hole in the wall’ pops into my head but I’m quite straight forward like that.
    Admittedly the Fish speaks Hitler did allow my mind to follow a path to ‘Fish Unicycles’ but I’m not sure how I got there.

  2. Leith said,

    Listen Sid, I know you said you didn’t want to talk about it, but we have to do something about the _____.

    I’m going to answer this.. and I have just the vehicle..

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