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Alone at the Carnival – Writing Stream Recap

For the last stream, we decided to try out a new exercise: writing about one small action in excruciating detail.

To do this, we picked a simple action (ie: paying for groceries, shaving a beard, etc.) and then described it using at least 500 words. Doing so forces you to go into extreme detail and show off lots of visuals, sounds, and smells that you might otherwise leave out. Plus it’s also good to practice slowing down the pacing in writing.

Together with chat we came up with a bunch of ideas, and then this one is what was voted for: sitting alone at a carnival.

Here’s the 500 words of crazy detail that we wrote about for it:

I sit down on a hard wooden bench across from the funnel cake vendor. The planks are cold through my worn out jeans, and the backrest has splinters of broken-off pieces sticking out. I grip one of them with my fingers and yank it off, leaving behind a soft yellow shadow where it had been. To my side, there is a sticky rainbow-colored puddle stained into the seat. The entire bench reeks of old bubblegum; I can see a few blobby, grayed-out pieces stuck underneath through the slits in the planks, and a half-eaten cone of cotton candy lying on the grass below.

The funnel cake vendor eyes me suspiciously. He’s leaning out of the hole in the side of his metal truck, thick hairy arms spilling over the edge like greasy globules. A hairnet clings to his head like a hungry monster, never getting its fill of sweaty scalp, and his hair and face glitter with spilled sugar diamonds. But his eyes are narrowed to slits, and he’s slowly chewing on a toothpick as he rests his gaze on me. I can hear every saliva-drenched chewing sound he makes, swishing around the toothpick from his tongue to his teeth and back again.

I try to look away, but the funnel cake truck drags my vision back. To the side of the vendor’s window is a smiling, fried-batter-colored tornado mascot with Mickey Mouse gloved hands and big eyes. The words “Franks’s Famous Funnel Cakes” circle around it in bright red and yellow letters. There are black cracks in some of them, showing their age, and rust stains litter the side of the metal vehicle.

Underneath, the tires are covered in mud and grass, and on top, there’s a massive metal antennae that fans out like a clothes-hanging wire. I just notice that inside the truck, behind the man who is presumably Frank, is a TV playing. A man in a suit is being yelled at in Spanish by a woman in a sparkling green dress as tears drip down her face.

The smell of the funnel cakes is so sweet it’s nauseating. I didn’t notice it when I first sat on the bench, but now that I’ve been breathing it in, it’s like I’m sitting in a swimming pool of sugar and syrup. It’s as if thick clouds of concentrated corn fructose is writhing its way into my nostrils and wiggling down my throat. The hot dog that I’d eaten earlier rumbles in the acid of my stomach, threatening to make a comeback if I don’t stop sniffing soon.

There’s a squeaking sound, and a door from the back of the truck opens. Frank comes out, and I see him in all of his greasy glory. He’s as wide as one of the heifers from the petting zoo, and gray blotches are baked into his white shirt, pants, and apron struggling to stay strapped to his stout figure. He walks up to me, his untied shoes sinking into the damp earth with squishy steps, and sits down next to me, not even caring that his behind is right on top of the sticky rainbow stain.

He reaches into his apron pocket and removes a shiny red delicious apple. It look fresh from the orchard stand on the other side of the carnival. He hands it to me and smiles; the toothpick sticks out from his teeth like a flag of victory.

“You look like someone who needs a healthy snack,” he says. “Here, have one of these, courtesy of old Franco.”

This was a really fun exercise to do. As opposed to most exercises, where we try to write a story with a beginning, middle and end, here the focus was on just one scene. All too often, my biggest critique of others’ work is that they don’t set the scene/tone, and I don’t know how to visualize/feel the scene. But doing an exercise like this forces you to break down every tiny little detail, making it incredibly visceral.

After that we moved on to today’s prompt, and chat voted for this image prompt submitted by Syraphia: (click here to see the image)

It’s been a while since we’ve done an image prompt, and this one was fun but challenging. There wasn’t a ton to work with plot-wise, but the setting/mood was very powerful.

Thanks to chat I think we ended up with a creepy yet intriguing story. It’s more “zoomed out” than our usual stories, but it’s fun to vary it up every now and then, and this one definitely wanted to be written this way.

You can read our story here.

If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-10:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).

And you missed the stream, you can still watch Rubbish to Published, the writing exercises, or the writing prompts on YouTube, or watch the full stream reruns until Twitch deletes them.

Hope to see you next time, friend!

Scott Wilson is the author of the novel Metl: The ANGEL Weapon, forthcoming November 2018.

Featured image: DeviantArt/kulayan3d

Published inLivestream