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Author Topic: More about theme  (Read 2926 times)
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Ed
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« on: February 01, 2006, 05:03:33 PM »

A couple of things struck me about this. 

Firstly - be wary of people editing your stories, because however good they are at it, you can lose part of what you were saying and also the way you were saying it.

Second - I think ultra short stories are a very good way to learn about theme.

I wrote this story for a challenge on EotW.  The challenge was to write a story in three sentences, which is pretty damn hard to do, actually.

***
Some Time Between Rich and Poor

by Blunt

There’s a fat guy - Armani suit, silk tie, Rolex, gold rings, and he’s walking alone in Brooklyn – left his limo down the street a way, thought he’d admire his new acquisition on foot, so he stands, staring up at his old apartment block that he’s bought for next to nothing, and doesn’t notice a young black teenager loping towards him.

The kid points a gun, holds it sideways, like a gangsta, demands the Rolex and the rings, ‘tha bling’ in other words, gestures with the gun, strikes a pose, takes the stuff and goes.

Fat guy trembles a little, thinks back to his past growing up in the neighbourhood, his daddy saying ‘the poor take what they need, the rich take what they want’, and it seems to him the middle classes ain’t what they used to be.

(138 words)

This is an example of what I'd call a 'fuzzy' theme.  You have to sit and think about it for a while, and you'll find that different people interpret the story in different ways. 

When I was writing it, I was thinking about gangster rap stars and how their fans want to emulate their behaviour, with the guns and the bling - 2pac and 50cent.  The rhyme in the second sentence, I think, alludes to rap.  I could be wrong, but that's what I was thinking.

I put it up for sacrifice, and then John Ravenscroft edited/re-wrote it as this, and left me to form and place the last line, which would be critical to clearly establish the theme and polarise it.  I hasten to add that I gave permission and have no objection to him doing this.

Here's the result -

Between Rich and Poor

The Fat guy - Armani suit, silk tie, Rolex, gold rings - leaves his limo and walks alone in Brooklyn. He heads for his new acquisition - the apartment block where he was born. The one he now owns. The one he bought for loose change.

He doesn’t notice the black kid loping towards him.

The kid points a gun, holds it sideways. In his head he's The Gangsta. Wants the Rolex, the rings, the bling. Plants his feet, gestures with the gun, takes Fat Guy's stuff. Goes.

Fat Guy trembles, remembers his daddy. 'The poor take what they need, son. The rich take what they want.'

***Now the next line is crucial. What you say here will shine a light on what's gone before, and fix the 'meaning' of the piece.***

If you add:

It seems to Fat Guy the middle classes ain’t what they used to be...

Reader is left thinking 'huh?'

Can you pin down what you wanted this piece to say, Blunt - and come up with a clear final line that delivers the Theme?

Seems to me that you need to understand *why* Fat Guy felt the need to buy his old block - and why he's walking through what he knows are dangerous streets - in order to get close to the potential theme of this.

John

***

Notice how John spells out, "the apartment block where he was born. The one he now owns. The one he bought for loose change."  Which starts off the thematic element, right near the beginning of the piece - where it should be.

BUT this line now stands out like a sore thumb to me - "He doesn’t notice the black kid loping towards him."  That, to me, now sounds racist, whereas it didn't in the original setting.  Not to my ear anyway.

I added in the last line, and that produced this -

Between Rich and Poor

The Fat guy - Armani suit, silk tie, Rolex, gold rings - leaves his limo and walks alone in Brooklyn. He heads for his new acquisition - the apartment block where he was born. The one he now owns. The one he bought for loose change.

He doesn’t notice the black kid loping towards him.

The kid points a gun, holds it sideways. In his head he's The Gangsta. Wants the Rolex, the rings, the bling. Plants his feet, gestures with the gun, takes Fat Guy's stuff. Goes.

Fat Guy trembles, remembers his daddy. 'The poor take what they need, son. The rich take what they want.'

And it seems to him, somewhere between need and want, everybody lost track of the difference.

***

Now the theme is pretty damn close to being crystal clear, but at what cost?  What is missing?  What is added?  Is it better or worse or about the same?

I think maybe I should re-write it again, without the constraints of three sentences - which produces some fairly hideous grammar, doesn't it?

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this - what do you reckon about it all?  Better fuzzy or clear?
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« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2006, 05:30:25 PM »

I did see this over at EotW. I thought your last line was very good. John's isolation of the theme early on was only possible because he lost the restriction of the three sentences. And your last line ties in neatly with his opening - that he, the rich man, was as bad as the black kid.

I think it would work well as a short flash piece. I love the tight, concise nature of the piece - sometimes tight constrictions like this force a quality of thinking and writing which is difficult to achieve with longer pieces.

I don't see the racist tone of John's version - I see little difference from the original, TBH.
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Ed
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« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2006, 05:50:34 PM »

I hate seeing the word 'black' there.  Just feels uncomfortable - could just as easily be any race of kid.  Something to consider for the re-write. scratch
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« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2006, 07:34:58 AM »

No i don't see the problem with black either - although rap is popular amongst the white middle class, in the ghetto, on the streets, it's the black kids that really identify with it - hence the lack of authentic white rappers in popular music. The 'black' helps with the setting - you never say the MC isn't black, but thats the image i of him...

Although i liked the original last line - now that it's spelt out i can see it as a payoff, without substance, something clever to say. With the new line (and i think this would work with or without the re-emphasis at the beginning) i can see a hell of a lot more - ie what is the difference between the two men? They both want more than they need. And this is where, after some thought, the 'theme' becomes clear - maybe we're all the same, maybe we all want more than we need?

Good stuff - maybe we should have the next flash challange as a 3 sentence...or maybe we'd all just want more  Wink
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