Yesterday, I received some interesting writing contest prompts from Reedsy in my inbox, all dealing with form, and I decided to give one a shot. As the prompt creator, author Erik Harper Klass, describes, considering form is a different way to attack fiction writing.
I’ve always been intrigued with the form and structure of stories—as opposed to their content, meaning, subject, themes, etc. I’m thinking of (to offer just a few examples off the top of my head) David Mitchel’s Cloud Atlas (a book within a book within a book …), Nabokov’s Pale Fire (a long poem followed by endnotes wherein the real story resides), Georges Perec’s Life: A User’s Manual (based on the Knight’s Tour on a chessboard), Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler(which is kind of like reading about someone reading the book’s first chapter, over and over again), B. S. Johnson’s The Unfortunates (in which the novel’s sections come in a box and can be shuffled and read in any order). And so on.
I settled into a unique form that I found fun and challenging, and it was after I finished and went to submit it that I realized I’d neglected two things: 1. To check the required word count before starting, and 2. To do math.
My story is too short, and when you discover my chosen form, you’ll see why I can’t lengthen it.
So instead of entering it in a contest, I’m sharing here. See if you can figure out the form. I’ll share the answer after the story.
Amazing. But predictable. Cami didn’t show. Don’t know why, again. Eventually, I’ll learn my lesson.
Frustrated, I leave her chosen cafe. Giving her this chance was a waste. Her story, her excuse, is likely evolving now. I wonder—will she expect I’ll forgive this time?
Just as I step onto the sidewalk, my phone rings. Keeping my quick pace, I yank it from my pocket, scowling. Low and behold, her name brightens my screen, and I press decline. Maybe more than a day after she stood me up will be enough.
Near the intersection, I glance up in time to see a cab bearing down. Out of control, it skids and bounces off the curb while I stand in shock. Part of me thinks to jump, but before I can, its bumper tears into my legs.
Quickly, I tuck in to protect what I can but my efforts leave much to be desired. Resting where I landed, against the door of my favorite restaurant, I notice sunlight shining between awning cracks. Something about that, the brightness, the warmth, giving life to countless plants and then countless more people and animals…
Time comes back at the moment someone is shaking my shoulder, pleading with me to rejoin her on the sidewalk. Usually, I would delight in the fact that a woman was doing all she could to reach me, but not now. Vague awareness of my situation, my legs, Cami—if she hadn’t asked me to meet her, I wouldn’t have been here now. Wherever she is, I hope she knows that her inconsideration, her neglect, have likely left me severely injured, maybe paralyzed, maybe much worse.
“Xavier,” she says, and it takes a moment for my brain to register that this woman, who I’ve never spoken to, knows my name.
“Yes,” I reply, and my memory grasps for any connection to this woman, any flicker of recognition I must be missing, but there isn’t one.
“Zero chance, I’m sorry,” she says to someone above us, and though my ability to move is stifled, I catch a familiar face looking down: Cami.
Did you figure out the form? If not and you want to try again, give it another read. I’ll post the answer after this picture of my dog so no one sees before they’re ready.
I chose to start each sentence with the next letter of the alphabet and make that sentence as long as whichever letter of the alphabet it is (so the sentence starting with F has six words because it’s the sixth letter). I added a repeat of the first word at the end because I wanted to. 🙃
How did you do?