Meetup 151: Metafiction and Minimalism

metafiction-minimalism

Srividya hosted a session last Saturday on Metafiction.

It was a good session because many of our members – including me – didn’t have much of an idea of what metafiction was. I can’t say that we’re all masters at the topic now, but we’ve made a start. For me, speaking in  general terms, metafiction is a device used by fiction writers to deliberately break the fictive dream.

There are many ways of doing this. Some of the common techniques used to bring about this effect are listed here (from the Wikipedia article):

  • A story about a writer who creates a story
  • A story that features itself (as a narrative or as a physical object) as its own prop
  • A story containing another work of fiction within itself
  • A story addressing the specific conventions of story, such as title, character conventions, paragraphing or plots
  • A novel where the narrator intentionally exposes him or herself as the author of the story
  • A book in which the book itself seeks interaction with the reader
  • A story in which the readers of the story itself force the author to change the story
  • Narrative footnotes which continue the story while commenting on it
  • A story in which the characters are aware that they are in a story

Exercise One

The purpose of this exercise is to write a piece in which the author and the reader are both characters in the story. The easiest way I could think of for doing this was to use the second-person narrative.

You must have heard many theories before on how to begin a short story. Did your writing teacher not tell you that the first word of your manuscript should be your main character’s name? But I haven’t yet given you the hero of this one, have I? Hell, I haven’t given this thing a title. I’m just going to keep writing and see what comes up, okay?

And no, you cannot leave. Our wrists are handcuffed together. Wherever you go, I come.

Wait, these are not handcuffs. These are chains. Heavy, cold and grimy. They smell of wet frogs and fungus. I remember going to bed last night in my warm bed. I had my wife’s arm around me. What about you, stranger? Do you remember anything of last night? Or the night before? Or any night of your life?

There are grey holes in your eyes. You cannot remember. Lean your wrist down on the floor, like so. Don’t resist. You’re not strong enough to break these chains. Neither am I. Move away if you want, but don’t let the shackles stretch too much. They may break my feeble arms.

Our story is going to begin here, stranger, in this black, damp room. And it’s going to end here. There’s no way out. No matter what you do, you will not be able to escape. Because I’m the writer, you see. Even if you somehow snap these chains and run for the tunnel of light over there – what? You don’t see a tunnel of light? Here, let me click my fingers. There. You see it now? Yes, that is a tunnel to light, to freedom, to the outside. You wanna go there?

Of course you do. But I’m not gonna let you. Even if you snap these chains and run for the tunnel of light, I will shut it close, with just a whisper. If you lunge at me I can break your legs with a thought. I can amputate your arms at the shoulder. I can pull your eyes out.

Don’t believe me? I erased all your memories, didn’t I?

So your only choice is to sit with me, dear sir. Look me in the eye. Talk to me. Let’s get to know each other. We can be friends. Indeed, that is probably your best bet. Make friends with me. Even if you hate my guts, even if you think I’m the ugliest shithole you’ve seen, even if I look like a wretch to you, even my voice makes your skin crawl, make friends with me. That’s the only way you will live.

You and I. A sweet little dark room that rots like a corpse. The best part? We have so much time with each other.

How do you want to spend it?

Exercise Two

Here the intention was to use minimalism as a prop to tell a story. We studied a few six-word short stories and attempted to write down a few of them. I did give it a shot, but I just couldn’t come up with anything at all. So I’m going to list three or four of the examples that Srividya gave us that stuck in my head.

1. With bloody hands I said goodbye

2. Tick tock tick tock tick tick

3. Dorothy: Fuck it, I’m staying here.

Image Courtesy: Markmanson.net


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Comments

  1. Here is my piece on the 1st exercise:

    Title: I am you

    They entered through the main door, the woman and her two daughters. With flowing white togas, clinched at the waist, they looked like the ray of sunshine, I had been waiting for God knows how long. 

    “Mother, is this where we will live?” The younger one with golden locks, and the face of an angel spoke up. 

    The woman looked around with and expression of sorrow mixed with disdain. 

    “Yes, Runa this is our home now.”

    The girls ran around the small home, which took not more than 10 steps to cover from one end to another. It was a stone house with low white ceilings and claustrophobic white walls. The only place divided was the bathroom with a cane door. The kitchen, bedroom and sitting area were seamless in this small home with no divisions.

    Another entered through the main door, a priestess with religious symbols tattooed all over her arms and shaved head. She walked around the ten steps and crossed the length of this humble abode. She stopped right under the roof, where there was a small hole to stream sunlight through. She cocked her head towards the right, looked up at the roof, let the breeze from above wash over her shining and tattooed baldness and looked at the mother.

    “This place is cursed!” she spoke.

    “Cursed?! But we have to live here, there is no where else to go.” Said the woman in absolute despair, holding her two girls.

    “I did not say that you have to move.” Said the priestess. “There is a restless spirit haunting this place, we need to get rid of it.”

    “How do we do that?” asked the woman with tears in her eyes.

    “We prepare for the ritual now, I have everything with me. I will need your help to set things up.”

    They then set about to prepare for the ritual, and while I waited to write what comes next; I decided to look for the restless spirit. How difficult would it be to find a ghost in a house that can be covered in just 10 long strides? I looked in the bathroom first, nothing, went to the kitchen area, nothing, went to where they started the ritual and there standing in the watering hole. I saw her.

    She did not belong here, this house was now theirs, the woman and her two girls and she needed to go.

    I could hear the priestess chanting in the background, she had drawn strange religious symbols all over the wall and lit a fire in the centre of the house. She believed that only with the combustion of fire and water will the spirit leave this house.

    As her voice grew louder, so did the fire become larger and thunder rolled outside. 

    The priestess came over to the watering hole to fill up the round vessel. I knew that when she does that final act of pouring water over fire, this soul would disappear from the house. 

    Shouldn’t I ask her, if she was ready to go? I looked back her, and she seemed scared. For a moment I felt pity, but then i realised that the dead have no place here in my story. This story was about the woman and her girls.

    I gathered courage and asked her, “Are you ready to go?”

    She spoke in tiny voice, “I don’t know. “

    “You don’t have a choice, you can’t be a part of this tale” I reprimanded her.

    I looked behind me, the priestess was poised with the vessel to pour water over fire and vanquish this ghost.

    But wait, shouldn’t I ask her who she is, and how did she come into my tale.

    I looked back at her and asked, “Who are you?”

    And as I finished my sentence, I felt excruciating pain throughout my body, as if someone was trying to rip my very essence into shreds.

    The priestess had poured water on fire, and the ghost spoke, “I am you.”

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  2. For the exercise 2: Flash fiction

    1. I say, “ I have too many tabs open in my head.”
    They say, “I need an asylum.”

    2. Do you want to see unicorns dance?
    Yes, she nodded.
    He handed my 64 year old the pill.

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  3. I couldn’t attend the Meta-fiction exercise. It would have been really fun. However, for the Minimalism I wrote a few 6 word stories:

    1. He hit send, then a tree

    2.”Let’s be friends”, says his girlfriend

    3. Devil to Angel: Go to hell

    4. “Shaped like humans”, said the clouds

    5. I am dead. I am home

    6. He sees reality. Must be blind

    7. “You look familiar”, said the soulmate

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  4. pradeepthyagaraja says:

    Exercise 1: Metafiction

    ‘By next week, I will be rich and we can travel all over the world’ said a happy timothy to his girlfriend Zena. ‘Are you sure? How are you going to be rich in just one week? Did you bought any lottery recently? asked Zena in a surprised tone. Timothy replied with a broad smile on his face, ‘just wait and watch’.

    ‘You have to write a story like this. Are you hearing me?’. Timothy was shouting on top of his lungs. But there was nobody to hear him. ‘Why is this happening now?, what this man have in his mind? Does he listens to my request?’, Timothy was thinking restlessly.

    ‘Argghhhh.. I am stuck in this particular chapter and not able to write further’. This must be the writers block as they say it. Anyways, ‘I am going with the same thought what I had in my mind’, replying to himself, Author Ramsen started to type his next chapter.

    ‘Timothy said to his girlfriend Zena that, he will be rich by next week..’ Later, Timothy took leave of Zena and was walking down the alley to the subway station. Timothy stood by the traffic signal post and waited for the signal to turn green for walkers. As it turned green, he stepped on the road to walk towards the other side. Then suddenly Timothy was hit by a speeding car and went away without stopping. Timothy was rushed to the hospital. As he was lying on his bed, Zena rushed to the hospital. She was sobbing uncontrollably. She walked slowly towards Timothy. Timothy looked at Zena and replied ‘Don’t worry Zena, You remember, we are inside a story!. Who knows, I may come alive in next chapter’.
    -0-

    Exercise 2: Minimalism

    1. One. Two. Three. Happy little kid!
    2. You’re a criminal. You’re free!
    3. I am immortal. Shit, I’m a ghost!
    4. I love animals. Wow, Chicken curry!
    5. Books are boring. Said the Librarian!
    6. Life is awesome. No, I quit!
    7. Social Networking is cool. Damn, I am addicted to facebook!

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  5. Exercise 1-Meta fiction: I have tried the concept of story within story. Not sure if it counts as meta fiction. Do let me know your views.

    “You love me, don’t you? Yes, I love you too. I have always loved you. From the day I met you, everything I did, I did only to love you, to make you a part of me, to have you for myself forever.
    And today I have made you mine. This time, this moment, you sitting before me, listening to me while the moon shines on us, on our love is what I have always desired and today, my wish is granted. I know this moment will not last forever but for me, it’s worth more than a lifetime.
    You remember the time when we went to that beautiful meadow. It was one such moment too. We were so happy then. Only if you had not done what you did, we could have stayed happy forever. But now that I have lived this moment, I want nothing else. I can be in peace forever.
    Trust me love, dying is the only solution. There is no other option left. I knew you wouldn’t listen to me, so I have written my heart out on this piece of paper and I am leaving it with you. Read it after I am gone.
    But before I go, can I kiss you once? To remember you, to remember the feeling. Please.
    And saying this, she bent to kiss the bloody dead lips of her lover, cleaned her fingerprints off the pistol, rearranged it in his hand and left the love letter and suicide note near the corpse before leaving”, told the psychology professor to his students and then asked them to write the story’s interpretation in their own words as an assignment.

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  1. […] Photo credit: https://sharathkomarraju.com/2014/09/29/meetup-151-metafiction-and-minimalism/ […]

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