Slam my work

Butcher it. Squash my dreams. Tell me how many times I goofed up. There is a huge hole between paragraph 2 and 3 I know. Be brutal. I got plenty more where it came from.

Now, this is kinda-sorta how it happened. Or at least how I remember it. Or maybe it’s how I look back upon it with wiser eyes. It could be that it’s just the way I want to tell the story now. They say history is told by the victors, who knows. I had this Muslim co-worker once. This was before 9-11 and they became a pariah, lepers with the bell hanging around their neck, warning others of their presence. We were talking about Alhambra and Muslim influence on architecture and what not in Spain. At one point he said “After the Muslims left Spain … “ After the Muslims LEFT Spain? I mean the way I heard the story they got their ass kicked back to their sand dunes. But the way he learned his history, they just up and left after years of occupation. So yeah, most people remember the past they way they would have liked it to have been. The professional term for this is “artistic license”. It’s just a nice word for “bullshit”. Some things I plain made up, others I embellished, and others are exactly as I remember them. Read that last sentence again, ‘cause I am sure some references to the past will be contested by some people.
There is an “All in the Family” episode called “Everybody Tell the Truth”. It is loosely based on the Kurosawa film “Rashomon”, where several characters tell their version of the same incident, from their point of view. Well, it’s like that. This is the way I saw it. It’s my story, so I get to tell it the way I want to. My piss stain on the wall, my way of stroking my ego, taking a crayon, writing “Kilroy Was Here” on the wall, stepping back and smiling to myself saying, “I did that”. Interesting story, “Kilroy Was Here”. Supposedly, Kilroy was this dude during Word War II who checked rivets. He would sign his name whenever he came around checking the work. Eventually all this material made its way to Europe, and some of it was captured by the Nazi’s. Apparently Hitler thought Kilroy was some sort of super spy sneaking in all over the place and a huge price was on his head. Then again maybe it’s just some story that spun out of control, much like my story will. Meh. Anyways, like I was saying, this is just something for me to leave behind, to say “I WUZ HERE”. It’s probably not as interesting as I think it is, but maybe you’ll like it. You probably won’t. In that case just leave the book wherever you are and the next person that comes along and picks it up can take it with them. I do that a lot. Or I did anyways when I lived in the States. I always took an extra paperback with me when I flew and left it in that little pocket on the seat in front of you where they stuff the barf bag and those puff piece airline magazines with weird ads for crap no one really needs and most people can’t afford. One time I left a business card inside the book and actually got an email from the person who found the book. They offered to send it back but I explained what I had done. The person thought it was a good idea and said they would start doing the same thing, but I don’t know if they really did.
Sometimes you see homeless people on the street talking to themselves, and I figure the reason they do that is ‘cause they figure they have something to say, but don’t have anyone to say it to. I guess that’s why I put all this down. I have plenty to say but didn’t have anyone to say it to. It all started with me wanting to kill myself. Funny thing is that if I would have done that, I wouldn’t be doing this now. Life takes funny turns, one thing leads to another, and before you know it, your catch yourself doing things you never dreamed in a million years you’d be doing. I guess now is as good a time as any to get started. If I don’t do this now I never will.

That “you” really grates!

Is this some American dialect usage? In my English (standard British) it is totally ungrammatical, being illogical, and immediately makes me feel that if that’s how this person writes, I can’t be bothered to read on. For me … “… if I had done …”

Erm … “… you catch yourself doing things you never dreamed you’d be doing in a million years.”?



Thanks for your comments. About “would” and how I used it. You are correct “for British usage”. I am an ESL, English as a Second Language teacher, in Brazil. I am however, American. Some schools teach British English, some American, and have worked at both. One of the schools that taught BRE had text books which mentioned this usage, and how it flies in the US day to day usage, but is considered improper. It SHOULD be in the past perfect, not the conditional perfect. That being said, lemme’ go to an extreme here: i can’t be bothered reading ee cummings, i mean with the way he writes and lack of respect for grammar…

I should pay more attention to tense, thanks…

and thanks for catching youR

BTW Mark, you caught some grammar errors, thanks… as far as content goes, style, what about that?

I really don’t have any slams in mind, just some mild reactions.

  1. You are a better writer than this example shows.
  2. It’s too deliberately downscale and raggedy to be credible.
  3. It smells a lot like college creative-writing workshop prose.
  4. The voice of this narrator is all style, too little substance.
  5. We can’t see where the story is going and why it matters.
  6. The most telling statements:
  1. Hostility to readers, the defensive self-presentation, the faux indifference:
  2. We’ve known them all since Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield.
  3. I’d start over and try to make these opening words tell a story, not just project a voice.

I really mean it, you are a much better writer than this sample shows. Good luck!
Oh PS: ee cummings is not that ungrammatical, and definitely worth reading.

Thanks for your comments. Let me ask you/ make comments on them:


I was shooting for very informal, but not raggedy, so I will “bring it up a notch”

Never took a creative writing course in my life or read an “improve your writing” book, but I guess I did learn something somewhere if it smacks of that. What can I do to “knock the polish off”?

While I really wanted to concentrate on style, I will add more meat.

This is just an very very rough draft opening, but “the next page” really is where it starts.

On points 7 and 8… I hear what you are saying. But that’s the well I am drawing from. Notes from the Underground and Fight Club and the Slaughterhouse Five intro more than the two you mentioned really, but it is a first person piece. Defensive self-presentation and the faux indifference are a part of the narrator.

Finally, I would like the voice to tell the story, and not the story shape the voice. Am I going in the wrong direction here? Bad idea?

the ee cummings remark was in reply to another comment about grammar and usage of tense… i clearly used the wrong tense in writing, whereas in common day to day spoken usage the ‘error’ is accepted…
thanks for your time, and if i can help you in any way let me know…

Start there, then.

take this out all together? as in :this really doesn’t “add” anything to the story and is just a preamble, so it is not needed? the truth is i wrote the “next” part first, and when I was done, I came back and said “lemme add THIS section, before the next one…”

As in YOU thought it starts properly on the next page.

From a plot development perspective you can probably edit it the whole section down to the following:

Pigfender: under consideration, thanks!

Hi, I am a linguist (theoretical particularly) and not a literature person. With very few exceptions, I prefer to read non-fiction rather than fiction and consider myself not well-read in modern literature in particular. Also, I am rather traditional (typical British understatement!) in my own usage and that affects strongly what I like in terms of fiction.

So my comments were grammatical as that’s where I’m comfortable, but I won’t lead this thread into linguistic disquisitions by commenting further. As for style, not a style I like, but that is not a criticism of your writing, merely a statement of my preferences; I can imagine that others may like it.

And I think others are in a far better position to comment on content.


bayamo, I sincerely don’t want to slam your work or squash your dreams. I always start of reading people’s work with the mindset to like. But I think druid summed it up best.

It was rather “ranty” to me, and I honestly could not see what the point was. As an opening, it needs to draw the reader in, so you need to work on this or just trash it.

As the guys have said, you are a much better writer than this example shows.

Goodluck with it.


Thanks Linny!