Dinner for Two Video Reading

Fast FoodToday’s a twofer, it looks like, because I spent some time yesterday recording a video I’d like to share with you all here. Now, I admit, the lighting’s terrible, my reading’s unrehearsed, Mr. Kitty (beckoned by my beautiful voice, lol) tries to come into the room about halfway through, and I bungle a word sometime after that (along with countless other little fixes that can be made, which I won’t list here), but it turned out better than I thought it would and I think I’ll be making more in the future.

All that’s to say, Here’s a reading I did of my very short fable Dinner for Two, enjoy.

Dinner for Two

by Bryan Perkins

“She’s gourmet,” I said to the phone. “Of course I want to go out with her. Next to her I’m like dog food.”

“So what’s the problem?” the phone asked back.

“The problem? I can’t even afford to go out to a nice restaurant by myself, that’s the problem. How do you expect me to afford a dinner for two?”

“Oh, come on,” the phone said, putting on that concerned tone like he knew what I was going through. He didn’t. Phones had all the money. Everyone everywhere needed a phone to do everything. He couldn’t help but to roll in the bakers—it was how he was built. “This is a new day and age,” he said. “The girl will even pick up the waiter these days. They call it dutch ovening or something, I don’t know. The point is, even a cheap ass sack of fries and a greasy burger dressed up in a paper suit deserve to sit on a nice table with a pretty girl every once in a while.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” wasn’t too difficult for me to say. “You’re a phone.”

“What?” the phone said, tone: offended. “You think my life is problem free? Those animals are always grabbing me, spitting on my ass, putting my face—that’s where my mouth is, you know, and my nose—up in their ears, and making me whisper sweet nothings from some other phone’s ass. You’re tellin me you want that life?”

“No,” I said. I did not want that. “But I’m fast food. I’m gonna—”

“What? So you’re afraid then?” the phone cut me off. I wasn’t even sure I was close enough to his butt for him to hear me.

“No, I’m not afraid,” I said anyway.

“You’ve never dreamed of sitting on a fancy table, candlelight between you and your gourmet date, a sweet, beautiful violin singing in the background, accompanied by an a capella orchestra?”

“Well, sure, who hasn’t? But I’m fast food!”

“It doesn’t matter, kid. It’s your destiny. I’ve made the call already. Get ready for the ride of your life.”

#

I won’t bore you with the details of the ride. Suffice it to say that it was the ride of my life. The table I ended up on deserves a little more description, but the phone has already gotten to that: candles, a capella orchestra, and—best of all—my gourmet date.

Ooh, what was she, though? I couldn’t see her from that angle, with the burning candle blocking my field of vision, but I could almost smell something exotic—maybe Thai. More than likely it was my own unkempt stench which I’ve probably never smelled anything beyond.

Ahem.” I cleared my throat of greasy phlegm. “Hello,” I ventured over the candlelight.

Gourmet gagged. “Ew. You have got to be kidding me.”

“I—excuse me.” I didn’t like the tone of her voice.

“You’re fast food!” she screeched.

“I—uh—” Of course. “The phone didn’t tell you?”

“I thought it had to be a joke. It is a joke, isn’t it? You’re not fast food, there’s something more under that paper veneer.”

“No, I—” I complained, but a hand—ugh, the most disgusting thing imaginable—ripped my clothes off and lifted me naked for the entire world to see.

Gourmet giggled now. It was so much worse than gagging. My insides turned pink. I gave up, gave in. There was nothing more for me. Thank the Holy Cow, Creator up above, a slobbery, cavernous black hole devoured me, sending me on a journey unknown, through depths even darker than these.

END

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Kurt Vonnegut on the Shapes of Stories and 8 Basics of Creative Writing

Today’s post appeared here originally.

This is one that I’m sure most of the writers on reddit have seen, but it’s worth a rehash nonetheless. The best place to start on Vonnegut’s shapes of stories, I think, is from the man himself, so here he is talking about his literary theory in video format.

If you don’t like to watch videos (I don’t either, but you should watch this one. It’s short, and he’s a great speaker.), you can check out this infographic with the same information.

Kurt Vonnegut's shapes of stories

Here I’d like to add something that only comes up in the comments of the original /r/writing self post, thanks to /u/kyle_albasi. That is the conclusion of the above talk, found in Vonnegut’s almost memoir A Man Without a Country, where Vonnegut says:

But there’s a reason we recognize Hamlet as a masterpiece: it’s that Shakespeare told us the truth, and people so rarely tell us the truth in this rise and fall here [indicates blackboard]. The truth is, we known so little about life, we don’t really know what the good news is and what the bad news is. And if I die-God forbid- I would like to go to heaven and ask somebody in charge up there ‘Hey! What was the good news and what was the bad news?!

Next, I’ll leave you with Vonnegut’s eight basics of creative writing. For everyone who hates the structures, models, and rules I’ve been posting, I think it’s especially important to pay attention to Vonnegut’s addendum after rule eight. Here they are:

Kurt Vonnegut created some of the most outrageously memorable novels of our time, such as Cat’s CradleBreakfast Of Champions, and Slaughterhouse Five. His work is a mesh of contradictions: both science fiction and literary, dark and funny, classic and counter-culture, warm-blooded and very cool. And it’s all completely unique.

With his customary wisdom and wit, Vonnegut put forth 8 basics of what he calls Creative Writing 101:

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The greatest American short story writer of my generation was Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964). She broke practically every one of my rules but the first. Great writers tend to do that.

From the preface to Vonnegut’s short story collection Bagombo Snuff Box.

And if that wasn’t enough, here’s a PDF with a set of eight other rules from Vonnegut on how to write in style.

I hope this was of some assistance. Thanks for joining us, and see you again next Thursday with more writing tips.

[Click here for more writing advice for beginners.]