Title: Succession

Takeaway: Order of operations.

Seat: Back

Logged: 28 Jul 16 (Thursday in the PM)


Time: 2 minutes

Replies: 37

Revisions: 9

Publicity: Superfeed

Nav: The Map, Main Page



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You stood there on the corner looking down at your phone, watching me approach on GPS. It must have been a few seconds behind because I sat there watching you watching the virtual me. Then you looked down the street behind me as if I were just pulling up. I rolled my window down. You looked over at me, then down at your phone, then down the street again and back over at me. I sat up from my comfortable driver’s slouch and gave you a friendly wave. Raising your eyebrows, you mouthed, “Oh,” smiled, and skipped awkwardly across the street to me. This clumsy version of the ridesharing introduction — with its abrupt pauses and awkward postures — was a refreshing sign of its earlier promise to shake things up socially, and it always made way for a strong pony ride.

You had just locked up the mini-mart for your father who was back home, “the homeland,” where he used to be a general practitioner. You held a small, white paper bag with a twine handle. It looked like a gift bag. Inside was a toothbrush for your wife. The two of you lived in the States, but in a “real city.” She was accompanying you here for the month to run your father’s store while he was away. You held up the receipt for the toothbrush. “My father is very precise. Everything has to be accounted for.”

“If I had grown up the child of a physician or healer, I might have decided to run a store instead.”

You were studying an ancient form of healing. You explained that “almost every other generation” your family practiced various forms of healing and medicine, going so far back that “all of this was probably wild then,” you reflected looking at the city blocks go by.

You grew up working in your father’s store, but, “I felt like I was in a box all day.” Now you prefer to work “outside of the box.” You grew up confused about your father’s decision to leave his country and start all over again here. Later, you realized that it wasn’t about him, and that “There’s no such thing as starting all over again.” His decision was made “in a long chain of others’ career decisions —” you paused, humming, and then continued, “ones made before and ones that will continue to be made.” You mulled over the hypothetical of growing up the son of your father the physician, not the storekeeper. “In that case, I might have decided to run a store instead of practice healing.” Your father seemed to know “the order of operations” when it came to raising children to be one thing or another, and thinking out loud about what your own kids might make of their lives some day, you uttered a foreign phrase roughly translated to, “It is already decided.”


Horse » Authorship
Horse » 5:09 PM 21 Jun 19
Horse » 2:40 PM 18 Aug 16
Horse » 2:38 PM 18 Aug 16
Elk » 11:50 AM 06 Aug 16
Elk » 9:32 AM 29 Jul 16
Elk » 9:34 PM 28 Jul 16

The Thread (37)

 Author's voice in grey. 

  1. Lose the two metaphors at the outset — summer camp and tango. They’re forced.

    I think it’s enough to say clumsy, don’t think you need abrupt and awkward etc.

    Also, cut the last line. Very seriously.

  2. FYI — Love the order of operations concept. It’s well known to me personally and otherwise, and it’s effectively/properly conveyed here.

  3. Upon a night’s reflection I’ve offered up a new subtext — it’s the real message and there’s a meta pun built into it.

  4. I have to disagree with Elk’s first reply. I didn’t think summer camp and tango (the tango?) were forced and actually found them refreshing in a Ride, which are generally pared of such material.

    I also like that we get a glimpse of the narrator here – that he’s getting used to the rides. That’s been missing, in my estimation, and something I’ve suggested to Horse in the past. Totally changes the purpose of the piece – it’s not just about the rider.

    I didn’t mind the synonyms. Or the last line either. Thought it made for a tidy vignette. If we all strive for the open ending, that too will become cliche. Best to wrap one up now and then or think of a new paradigm altogether.

    I did think variations of “look” were overused in the first paragraph, though I could see that being intentional.

  5. The rhythm of all that looking is a reflection of the tango, which I’ll keep purely because of my own fascination with tango as something uttlery graceful and seemingly forced.

    I like that you read the very subtle reference to the narrator’s life, which I’ve always meant to explore at about fifty rides. And this is a pivot which has everything to do with the order of operations, which I am glad you emphasized, Elk.

    I’m undecided about the last line right now, and I like both takes. I’ll let it be for now.

  6. Look – if you’ve been seeing these as a cohesive unit, a common whole, then all the stuff about development quite obviously makes sense, as does differentiation across the series.

    But if, like me, you’ve been seeing these more like a collection of cards with common features (think baseball or Garbage Pail), then doing them all the same without development makes more sense.

    I’m suggesting everyone look at 1 Dead in Attic (C. Rose) as a fulcrum for discussion.

  7. Interesting. I would think that as a work of literature, development would be the goal. To go someplace, to illustrate change, is kind of the idea. Thinking of them as a set of cards or coasters or serving platters would never have occurred to me. In fact, the static nature of the Rides is the one thing holding them back.

  8. I do see your point, though, Elk. I guess it’s a question of motives, presentation, and placement.

    As a hesitantly modern human being (there is the case against), I’m thinking of the Rides like a series — arcs within episodes, yes, but a seasonal arc as well and an arc to the series as a whole. I’m looking for the bigger picture in the Rides.

  9. I understand — I just don’t think it’s gonna go down like that best. First things first I’m a realist.

  10. I’m not saying an actual television series, mind you. Just a template to model.

  11. I’ve previously suggested disseminating actual cards in strategic locales. The trading card analogy actually renews my interest in the idea. Before we started I also asked Horse to consider/conceive a series of demographic attributes that could be noted on each ride — age, gender, something far more creative than either of those, etc.

  12. As simple and traditional as it sounds, a book of Rides makes sense and offers developmental opportunities, narratively speaking.

  13. Don’t know that both aren’t possible, but which is likely to be best? I remain doubtful of the arcs — they’re not present now and we’re like 50 in. At the very least there should be a theory and light outline long before 50 — unless you’re doing 500.

  14. Furthermore, I’m just not certain long arc is Horse’s thing — he’s got a real talent for what’s going on presently, but I think pushing some traditional format on him because one of us has the knack, or the hankering, or the expectation, could be a mistake. The organics thus far point to a series of standalone vignettes, far as I can tell.

  15. All true. It’s really Horse’s call. I’m just saying that adding another element could bring something to the series. But maybe taking it away was the key in the first place.

  16. I can only say that when I read this last piece, I was pleasantly surprised by the narrator development. I advise, have advised, and will continue to advise that course.

  17. Come now @horse to say and declare.

  18. Actually — come now @falcon.

  19. It is a both/and. The freestanding, serial vignette. This conversation exists at the heart of this project of forking paths. I am not copping out of the pragmatism of form or looking for an easy way out of a decision. I simply think this is not binary. I have been avoiding the artiface that comes about from novel-writing (for me anyway), and I have always, always, always (doesn’t one “always” say it all?) found the novel to be as incomplete and unfulfilling a medium as any other. I say “novel” because for some reason the novel has come up as a contrast to the vignette. Apples and oranges, not orange segments and oranges (though I could get with that if I have to). I’m not sure what is going to happen here. But I’m not settling for an either/or, showcase showdown.

  20. If you do decide to, take the trip to Singapore over the jet skies and living room set.

    I do think “novel” has lost its charm as it’s become more of a commercial enterprise, so for a moment, let’s say long vs. short form. Ultimately, when you’ve created enough short form features, they collectively become long form.

    With 50-odd Rides, believe it or not, you’re already writing a long form piece or “novel.”

    Sorry, pal.

  21. The obvious analogy is to life. We live second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade. At some point you gotta call it a life. And while the smallest units seem static, over their career they add up to some kind of development, a trait intrinsic with the passage of time.

    As one of my professor’s used to say, “Entropy happens.”

    The narrator is really the crux of the Rides.

  22. Just like it’s really Red’s story, not Andy’s, in The Shawshank Redemption.

  23. Great reference, Bear, to that character narrator. Good point.

    I like how Tim O’Brien went one more frame out to the author. How much of Red’s story was King’s? Don’t bother though. Your point was strong.

  24. I’ll buy that Andy/Red dynamic for a dollar — or, wait, that’s a different show.

    Back to the immediate edits — if you think there’s no room for improvement in any of your work, much of it’s probably much worse than any of your would-be editors think it is.

  25. As I’ve said, you need the right editor — one who shares a vision of the work. An edit is as arbitrary to the writer as the writing is to the editor.

  26. This isn’t to say suggestions aren’t useful or that you, Elk, or I or anyone else might or might not be the right editor. I’ve always been a little suspect of sort of blindly following someone else’s will or whim on a piece without at least getting into some kind of substantive discussion first.

  27. It’s not unlike a marriage, this writer/editor thing. Insert your own interpretation of marriage. I’d hate to brave any definition of it.

  28. I have always been interested in RL’s potential to help me improve as a vignettor storyteller. A vignellor? Please, stay on topic, be objective while you’re being you, and please, please, please make sure your lost translation doesn’t go unfound.

  29. But again, if one never takes any suggestions to heart it’s most likely some form of naïveness. There are things that we — trusted readers, the ones and possibly the few who get it — can and do discern immediately as blindspots, not least because we know each other’s writing well (and in some cases plain know each other well). I don’t take abundance of familiarity for granted.

    It’s not arbitrary. No one’s reaction to a piece is arbitrary. It’s a real part of the real world, and it should matter to every writer what any reader shares of their experience with a piece. That’s the whole goddamned point. If you’re writing for yourself, or some crusade, or to shove a voice down everyone’s throat, I suggest a suicide note for a medium.

    I know we differ on this topic, @bear. Just documenting that fact for the sake of completeness.

  30. What I mean is this: a writer generally has a specific purpose or goal in mind, even if it can’t be directly articulated (it’s kind of the point of fiction, in my view, to articulate such ideas indirectly). A reader comes along, reads, and, without necessarily knowing what the writer is trying to do, says change this or that. That bugs me.

    Workshopping does have its merits – occasionally a writer will realize he or she has slipped up in some way or will have an epiphany based on readers’ perceptions. But I think that’s the exception, not the rule.

    I’ve certainly made suggestions to you, Elk, that you’ve pushed back on. That’s a good thing – it means the piece is saying something to or about you. If we all just take advice, it distills what I think is the whole goddamned point in the first place.

  31. I think we’d agree there’s a middle ground. You seem to be setting up a straw man — some shitty reader makes some shitty off-the-cuff suggestion and there you have it. That’s not what’s going on here, and if you think it is why would you write in our company? Also note that a reaction to a 250 word piece may be inherently more legitimate and valuable than to an 80,000 word piece. Again, we know each other, we’re skilled, and we can identify blindspots in our tiny snapshots.

    But there is a bigger question here — taken up off-site but welcome on-site — whether there’s a possible deeper function for replies. This is a perennial issue in The Land.

  32. No straw man. Just think discussion comes before revision.

  33. I think Bear’s last point is important. Once again, it emphasizes the value of the replies here. A reply is a response to something. That response should aim to be as much a part of the conversation as possible.

    Replying is really a selfless thing, as any really good conversation is. The conversation here has morphed, which is fine and expected. But it should be brought back to the piece. There are a few things I want to change, if I could get back in and do so.

  34. Funny — I was so psyched to see the conversation get bigger. I love that replies manage to run from minutiae to megaverse in the same thread.

  35. @god — Can I get a second for the Superfeed?

  36. Second.

  37. Ok with all the changes except “the store” to “your father’s store” — feels unnecessary, insecure, and redundant. Trust more in the reader.

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