Monday, October 11, 2010

Mildly Amusing Writing Exercises: Nursery Rhyme + Genre

In writer's groups I belong to, or have belonged to, we sometimes do writing exercises. Most of them have been focused not so much on honing specific stylistic skills as on getting the creative juices flowing while having fun at the same time. As a result, we tend to lean toward the funny and silly exercises. After which, one is left with a piece of writing that one doesn't know what to do with. (Look, I just ended a sentence with a preposition. If only my writing exercises were more highbrow, I might have known better.)

I have old writing exercise results lying around that I am fond of, even perversely proud of. It seems a shame that they are only seeing the inside of my underwear drawer. Still, it's not as if I can submit them for publication. But here's a thought: I could post them on my blog.

One of my writing friends is fond of nursery rhymes, and she came up with the following writing exercise. Write several nursery rhymes down on little scraps of paper and put them in a hat. Then write down several genre names and put them in a separate hat. Each participating writer draws one piece of paper from each hat, that is, one nursery rhyme and one genre. The challenge is then to write a short story in the given genre, that somehow references the nursery rhyme.

I did two of these. See if you can guess both nursery rhyme and genre.

"Captain Wutax!" A note of alarm crept into the ensign's voice. "A Knitter's Guild vessel just decloaked off our starboard bow."

Before Captain Wutax could respond, the ensign cried, "They're powering weapons, Sir!"

"Raise shields," barked Captain Wutax, his jaw jutting out manfully.

"Shields at maximum. They're hailing us, Sir."

"Open a communication link. Onscreen."

With an electronic chirp, the hated face of Mrs. Connor, compulsive knitter, appeared onscreen. Fear and loathing twisted in Captain Wutax's guts as he saw she was swathed in a hand-knitted Victorian lace shawl over her hand-knitted cable sweater. The woman had no notion of when to stop. It was said that the Guild kept its ship ice-cold. Otherwise they'd swelter under all that knitted stuff.

"This is Captain Wutax of the Black Sheep. What do you want?"

"I think you know exactly what I want," drawled Mrs. Connor. "We know you've got wool. Hand it over."

"The Black Sheep has no wool for you!" thundered Captain Wutax.

"Don't hand me that. I know you have three bays full."

"Yes, for Master Blaster and his wife. They're going to share it with little Kimmy. We have wool for honest, paying customers, not pirates like you."

Mrs. Connor's mouth twisted. "Fine. If that's the way it's going to go. Let's see if your shields can stand up to our Needle of Doom!" The screen went black.

"Evasive manoeuvres," barked Wutax. "And arm... the Crotchet Hook!"

* * *

Nursery rhyme and genre: Baa Baa Black Sheep/Space Opera. I know it sounds a lot like a Star Trek rip-off. That's because I haven't been exposed to much space opera, so Star Trek naturally came to mind. By the way, I was going for a cheesy, overwritten effect. That's why so many faces are twisting and jaws are jutting manfully. I don't normally write that way. Honest.

As the police officer outlined the body in chalk, Sherlock Columbo took in the sumptuous surroundings. "Lovely place you've got here," he remarked absently to the distraught young woman on the sofa. She'd stopped crying, but her eyes were red-rimmed and the tissue in her hands had disintegrated into moist little shreds. "That's a very nice sofa," Columbo continued. "I bet that's no later than 18th century." She gazed at him with bewilderment.

"That's a nice piece too." He nodded at the grandfather clock that rose above the corpse. "Excellent condition."

Watson, his assistant, leaned in close and said in a low voice, "Sherlock, the young lady is obviously upset. Do you think it's appropriate..."

"Oh! I'm sorry." Columbo smiled at the woman, who dissolved into fresh tears. "Oh now... here, take my handkerchief." He whipped the white cloth out of his breast pocket and handed it to her. She blew her nose with a loud honk.

"Keep it. I have plenty."

He turned to Watson. "One thing we know," he murmured, "is that the murder occurred between midnight and one in the morning."

"We do? How do we know that?"

"You'll notice the mouse." Columbo pointed, and Watson saw the tiny black eyes peeking out from behind the pendulum. "As we know from the scientific reports the deceased published in Nature Journal, this mouse was in the habit of running up the clock at midnight, and back down at one. It was like... well, clockwork." Columbo allowed himself a small chuckle. "And yet the mouse is still in the clock. Why?"

Watson looked at the body. "The mouse was afraid to come down because of the body at the base of the clock. Very clever, Sherlock!"

"Elementary, my dear Watson."

* * *

Nursery rhyme and genre: Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock/Mystery.

Wasn't that fun? Maybe I'll post some more later.


Susan said...

I remember my Gingerman/Stephen King mash up called "The Crumbling"

Vivian said...

I probably heard that one, but I don't remember it. It sounds pretty good.

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