• Group Writing Exercise: “Oh Girl”

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 28 comments
    Sep
    5

    Discussion questions: This week we’re going to try something new, a cumulative group writing exercise that could be super fun and/or super chaotic. Together you all are going to write a story, or hopefully several stories, that begin with a line I wrote and end with a line I wrote — and everything in the middle comes from you.

     

    Our pal Steve once suggested we make an exercise where you all can create something together, sort of a cumulative writing exercise. This week we’re going to try it.

    So here’s the deal:

    Below, I’ve posted the opening line of a short story I wrote and the closing line of the same story. And you, my friends, together are going to fill in several versions of everything that comes in between.

     

    Every time you post, you have two choices:

    1. Starting a new thread, write a passage that builds upon my opening sentence. Keep your entry to fifty-ish words or fewer. No hogging! And then allow someone else to pick up your story from there. Later on you can contribute again to your own storyline, but only after at least one other writer has made an entry.

    OR

    2. You can piggyback off of the most recent entry in someone else’s thread (by clicking “reply” to that writer’s comment, rather than beginning a new thread). In other words, you’ll pick up the story wherever the last writer left off. Again keep it to fifty words or fewer.

     

    I think for the sake of organization, let’s not let any thread spin off into its own sub-threads. If Writer A opens a new thread and Writer B writes the next passage, you must build on Writer B’s passage, rather than starting your own thing that follows Writer A’s.

    (I hope that makes sense. We’ll figure it out as we go.)

    This could be fun and cool. It could be frustrating and utter chaos. It could be all of those things. And more! We’ll never know if we don’t try.

    Let’s see how many storylines make it all the way to my ending.

     

    If you guys like this, we’ll iron out whatever kinks happen and try it again sometime.

    I considered offering only an opening line, rather than a first and a last line, but then I envisioned disputes about when/where the stories end. Who decides, and how?

    If you guys have any ideas for how to make this work better next time, let me know in a comment or by email.

     

    OK, so here’s the first line:

    You could hear Koz all the way across the floor that summer anytime this song came on. 

     

    And here’s the last:

    Then the piano accelerates and builds toward the refrain, and when it comes I rear back and let loose the loudest Ohhhhhhhh girl I can manage without tearing apart my scorched throat and ruined lungs, I give it every ounce of soul and pain I have left in me, but Koz, he just looks at me.

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast, and has written about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesJoin our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    Christina Del Pozzo

    The first sounds were his boot heels picking up the rhythm of the song, followed by his raspy “oh yeah”. He never failed to find an unsuspecting dance partner – male or female – it didn’t matter. The popularity of this summer song depended upon people like Coz.

    Elissa Malcohn

    And the popularity of this dive depended on people like me. Those of us slouching at the edges managed to draw the bubbly tourists like flies, who teased some sick storybook quaintness out of this dilapidated shack with its nautical kitsch, its bad food, and its local color of despair.

    Kenneth

    Elissa, that is very good writing. So good, that it gives me pause before wadding into these waters. Very well done.

    Elissa Malcohn

    Thanks. :-) Happy wading.

    Christina Del Pozzo

    There were nights that Coz inspired most of the people to let loose on the floor boards that clicked and clacked as loud as his own shoes. The room was a mass of sweat and squeals, hoppin’ until the wee hours when the cicada stopped chirping.

    Malcolm G.

    The communal energy was impossible to deny; it swept through the crowd with abandon, but became a deluge with particular chart-toppers… none more so than the Chi-Lites recent smash. With the opening bars of the harmonica Koz would roar, cough to clear his lungs and throat, and let his first “Ohhhhhhhh girl” billow across the clicking/clacking dance floor.

    Christina Del Pozzo

    Delirium – sheer delirium – had taken over the bar. Marijuana soaked smoke and spilled alcohol mingled in the air. It was hard to tell who was with who on the dance floor, and those who weren’t dancing were swaying in their seats. With each “Ohhhhhhhh girl” more and more people joined in.

    KevinW

    And it came on A LOT. The only Muzak program the ward had at the time was “Hits Of The 70s”. Everyone had their favorites. For example, Beany was non-verbal and mostly catatonic but he loved “singing” along to “Can’t Stop This Feeling” (he did a mean “ooga-chucka”) and was even known to attempt to yodel along with “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. His sidekick Bogie liked to yell along with the electric sitar riff in “Come And Get Your Love”. And then there was Koz.

    Susan

    Koz was the romantic in the group, and that’s what had landed him here–his crazy heart. She had left him, and he was in trouble. Stopped his meds for a week then took them all at once with a pink of vodka.

    rivka goldblatt

    I was the quiet one. The fire had left me crumpled, insecure, without a voice. I envied Koz, with his impulsive confidence and booming voice, his big heart that he shared with anybody who would let him in. I had never been like that, and now, probably never would be like that.

    Susan

    I meant to say pint, but maybe we should leave it at pink.

    rivka goldblatt

    Maybe, maybe not. I wish i had some confidence like Koz!

    Susan

    See, the drug and alcohol combo had caused Koz to have a seizure in the middle of Brady Street, and,hence, a cracked skull. The subdural hematoma had resulted in a mild left-sided hemiparesis, which actually made him a better dancer, and a peculiar form of dysarthria–whenever Koz got tired, his t’s sounded like k’s. For example, every morning he would kake a shower and brush his keeth.

    M^2

    “Oooh Girl Tell me what am I gonna do?” You could hear a pin drop on the third floor ward when Koz belted out those lines. Sometimes he sing them standing on the edge of table where a few of us like to play cards, but that usually meant he had to go back to his room for the rest of the day so today, he stood next to the radio.

    M^2

    *sang

    Elissa Malcohn

    His palm rested on the scratched wood table for support even as he danced his slow rhythm.
     
    “So I kry oo be hip and kink like a crowd
    But even a crowd can’k help me now, oh…”
     
    We froze. Koz’s voice boomed like always. Why were his words so exhausted?

    SusanH

    “Because she broke him, Baby.” It was Peaches–that was the nickname the orderlies had given to Deb, the most “unorderly” of us by far. She stood in the corner, in her usual lean against the wall, hands in the pocket of her faded blue hospital robe. She may have been the only person in the world who could wear that robe over the drab yellow hospital gown and still look like she just stepped off the back of a Harley.

    Brigitte

    Sometimes he also sat on the table too. It all depended on whether he could stand or not.

    KevinW

    Koz had always had an unusual perspective on things. His mother’s psychosis had created his unique synaesthesia when she had admonished him to “stop looking at the world through rose-colored potatoes”. After that, his world was all in shades of fuchsia. When his great love Magenta left him, there was little surprise that his suicide attempt included an entire pink of vodka (s “pink’ in Koz-speak was equal to one half-gallon).

    Brigitte

    With a pink of vodka sounds fine to me!

    Brigitte

    You could hear Koz when the song came on and he often got up, and started banging a spoon on one of the kitchen pots and then he got on the table.

    Malcolm G.

    Quickly the guards would hustle over, batons in hand, shouting for Koz to step down. They didn’t necessarily mind Koz’s ebullience over the song, but ebullience and table-standing can spread, and in here, spread can turn ugly.

    Brigitte

    When ever Koz heard the guards, he knew it meant trouble. He did not enjoy when he could not express his emotions the way he liked. Standing on tables is not against the law. Or is it?

    David Michael Inverso

    Just as the guards reached up for him at his table, the song that put him there ended. In the brief silence between songs, Koz thrust out his spoon at them and shout/sang, “Stop! In the name of love!” As he sang, he angled out a semaphore with the pot and spoon, “… Be Fore Yoo Break My Heart.”

    Brigitte

    Koz felt ashamed of himself for a brief moment. He listened to the silence while he stared into the darkness and asked himself this question:Is the path I am on taking me in the wrong direction?” He dropped the spoon and fell to his knees.

    Elissa Malcohn

    “What a goofball.” Tray’s tattoos preceded him. His hiking boots hit the metal tabletop, eclipsing his yowling cousin. Sodium lights made the park pavilion jaundiced.
     
    I shrugged. “It takes guts to sing so loudly, so badly.”
     
    And so vulnerably. But I knew better than to mention that to Tray.

    Elissa Malcohn

    (Whoops, didn’t mean to boldface all that.)

    Malcolm G.

    You could hear Koz all the way across the floor that summer anytime this song came on. 

    But I couldn’t. I wasn’t there, and you had to tell me all about it. Remember? How you said that when this song came on, Koz would belt it out at the top of his lungs? You said it made you want to dance and sing. That it was the last time you realized you were happy, sat with that happiness for a moment and let it wash over you. Before any of this.




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