Man and Boy; Tennessee, 1932 (Revised for a 3 minute Fiction Slam)

I first wrote Man and Boy sometime in the early 1990s, possibly late 1980s. I remember reading publicly and the next reader, a published author, making a derogatory comment about the story’s tone and subject matter.

I’ve kept it on a backburner ever since, sometimes taking it out, sending it out to a few places then putting it back. I’ve always felt there’s something here. Maybe it needs to be longer, a full story and not a flash piece.

Last week’s The Shackled Man had been in my head for a while and I wrote it up for a flash/slam fiction class I took. I decided Man and Boy might also be a good candidate, so dusted it off and revised if from the previous version. You can get an idea of the revisions by comparing the two. Basically I cut out everything that wasn’t “in the moment” of the story, which I originally wrote as an exercise in dialogue (still think it’s a great example of dialogue carrying a story).

So, as always, enjoy and let me know what you think.

Creator and above level members can listen to my test read.

Man and Boy; Tennessee, 1932

 
“He’s a dead man, Pa. I pulled me up a dead black man.”

“First time we go fishing in a week and you snag your line on a boy’s been dead in the water who knows how long?”

“We going to get in trouble, Pa?”

“Don’t know that until we know who he is. Help me get him in the boat. God, this one’s heavy. Ain’t swelled, though.

“Look at his face, Pa.”

“Somebody didn’t take a liking to it, that’s for sure. And look at them clothes. You ever seen clothes like that, son?”

“Them’s city clothes, Pa.”

“What do you know about city clothes?”

“I seen them in the catalogue at Mr. Howard’s store.”

“What you doing down at Mr. Howard’s store?”

“I run errands for Mr. Howard sometimes and he gives me a penny so I can buy some candy.”

“You think them’s city clothes?”

“I know I’m right.”

“So this here’s a city-boy, huh? Somebody killed themselves a city-boy.”

“What we going to do, Pa?


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Aristotle’s “Poetics”

I’ve read a few writing texts and better than half mention Aristotle’s Poetics as the original, the source, what everything else is based on. I managed to kick that gauntlet out of my way for quite a while and finally yielded.

 
Everybody mentions it’s a short book. It is. The PDF version I found is 49 pages (and that includes lots of room where explanations of Greek phrasing and words are made).

Does it have everything you need in a writing text? Yes, if you’re consider just mechanics (what is a plot? What is characterization? What is dialogue?), no if you happen to be a writer also dealing with marketing, contracts, et cetera. Let’s face it, it is an ancient text written by someone at the height of his game. Aristotle was a household name when he wrote this (if you want a writing text by someone still bandaging their scars from their early battles, read Barry Longyear’s Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop – I: An Introduction to Fiction Mechanics).

Aristotle was also a master logician and it shows – my god, does it show – in how explains writing concepts.
Is it accessible? ROFL, are you kidding? This is an ancient text, remember? His examples all come from ancient texts. He painstakingly describes character, sure, but his examples are from Sophocles, Euripides, Thrycine, Inoculene, Phlegmatic, and Spyrochete (yes, I made some of those up. Good for you if you knew which ones).

And it’s dense. Consider your average 300 page writing text squished into 49 pages with just as much raw information.

And some of it’s in Greek. Not even modern Greek, you’ll need to pick up a few things from konic.

So how useful is it?


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Prosody

Excuse me while I kiss this guy. – Jimi Hendrix

Ever been shocked to learn the lyrics to your favorite song aren’t what you’ve been singing all along?

Welcome to prosody. Prosody is what happens when we misunderstand information. It’s usually attributed to auditory information because it’s based on the time interval between events such as the sounds of spoken words. A favorite example is the Jimi Hendrix line, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky” because people unfamiliar with the lyric often hear “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” The sounds are similar, the timing between the sounds allow us to recognize “the sky” versus “this guy.”

Prosody also occurs when we can’t make out what we’re seeing, but now the challenge is with the time interval between visual events, not auditory. A tactile version of prosody occurs when you have someone tap near your wrist with two fingers then tap your forearm up by your elbow with two fingers. Our skin sometimes codes the AA-BB taps as AA-B-C or A-BB-C or A-B-CC based on the time interval between taps.


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