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On My Keyboard This Week . . .

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Jan. 30th, 2008 | 11:46 am
mood: busybusy

While I did work on my big action scene (it's nearly done, although I recently had an idea which possibly changed my mind about how a major bit of it will work, so a great deal of editing will probably be in order), I spent a lot of time and effort this week on writing for class. The class, "Advanced Fiction," is a lot of fun, and the professor is just trying out an exercise wherein he hands out one specific, detailed prompt to the entire class (sixteen students), and we all write the same scene (in about five pages - minimum 1,200 words). This week's was about a young Catholic priest who witnesses a car accident in which a Peruvian construction worker accidentally hits and fatally wounds an elderly Russian man. Upon trying to comfort the victim (who speaks no English), he sees a serial number tattoo on his arm and realizes that this man was a victim of the Holocaust (prompt also specifies he is Jewish). There's our scene.

It was really pretty amazing how differently people dealt with it. The professor was highly pleased, beginning the class with the words "I'm just going to unabashedly say this: I am a genius." We wrote differently, and some of us (me, for example) were pulled out of our comfort zones (I generally write light, humorous work, often fantasy). I myself was actually pretty impressed by the seriousness and tenderness that this piece drew out of me - but that was when I wrote it. First came the research.

The priest was required to be the point-of-view character, so I browsed the Catholic Encyclopedia online and had a long phone chat with a friend who is a devout Catholic, currently attending a Catholic university with many priests-in-training. Then, I turned to the livejournal communities little_details; and linguaphiles to get translations for some Russian (I already know a lot of Spanish, so the Peruvian construction worker, specified to speak in "broken English," was all right). A number of people on those communities objected to parts of the prompt itself, saying it is extremely unlikely for even an elderly Russian immigrant to speak not even a word of English; some also argued that he would not be an observant Jew. (My professor said that, if his Russian Jewish grandfather had read that, he would have flown into a rage and quoted the Talmud at the fellow at length.) On the other hand, I had all the translations I needed within ten or fifteen minutes. Both groups are really quite helpful.

This week (we meet on Tuesdays), we got a new prompt, this one lending itself much more to humor. I'll let you know next week how it went!

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