Despite popular opinion, writing fiction has always been a serious, solitary activity for me. I can come up with stories anywhere, at any time, but the actual writing part takes place on my bed, listening to instrumental music. However, we’ve recently started our fiction unit in Creative Writing, dividing up into CW 1 (primarily underclassmen), and CW 2 (upperclassmen), and a couple of the assignments have been collaborative.
Our first assignment was to expand on Richard Brautigan’s one sentence short story: “‘Have you ever lived in a one-room apartment with someone learning to play the violin?’ she asked, as she handed the police officer the smoking gun.” Before everyone separated to write our own one page versions, we performed this story for each other. Eight different pairs acted out one sentence in dramatically different ways. One of the most memorable moments was when two people had to act the scene out without any arms (pantomiming the toss of the gun was a challenge there). Another was when Heather was directing the scene that I was in. I was playing the police officer, and Heather told me that I had to act as though I stubbed my toe, had a twitch in my left arm, and had an extreme case of hiccups. Oh and I forgot to mention, the woman with the gun was trying to seduce me. But all that was for the sake of the story, so I didn’t mind.
When we came back the next day with our expanded versions of the one sentence we were given, everyone had a completely different tone and approach. One was about improv and another was about putting someone out of their misery. The drastic acting that we had done the day before opened our mind to the many different possibilities that this story held, and as a group of writers, we took advantage of that.