THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
SEPTEMBER 10, 2016
<photo: john teaching>
The ever-quotable E. M. Forster wrote, “How do I know what I think till I see what I say?” Often writers are surprised by what flows out of their pen and onto the paper, or what pops up on the screen because of their wandering, wondering fingers. For example, I don’t know where I’m going with this paragraph, and whether or not I’ll keep it. But I believe I think that writing stories is a good tool for following Socrates’s advice, “Know thyself.” Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, if you write honestly you’re more than likely to commit yourself to words and thoughts that make sense to you.
Yes, I do think that’s true, so I’ll keep that thought and move onto my next unplanned (or barely planned) observation: writing stories is often like a magic mirror. You write the story, you read the story, and you’re surprised to see what you’ve said or shown you believe. Sometimes you’re pleased by what you read. Sometimes you’re shocked.
Embrace the surprise. Learn from the shock. You’ve written honestly (to make the mirror’s magic work), so what you’ve written is likely to reveal something about yourself, maybe something you never focused on before.
Having just read what I just wrote, I have seen in the magic mirror that I have a tendency to pontificate. Phooey. I was going to pompously wonder if the authors of this month’s 99-word stories learned anything about themselves when they read what they had written. The answer, I must admit, is probably not. What their stories all show is that the authors had fun writing them. Period, and that’s enough. That’s the truth, and you can take it to the bank.
There: that’s what I really think. I know that because I wrote it, or at least I think know that’s what I know I think.
This is too complicated. Let’s just enjoy the stories.
MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL
by Phyllis Povell
She boarded the plane.
Halfway through the flight nature called, so she made her way up the crowded aisle. As she entered the restroom she glanced up and thought she saw someone in the bathroom. Stepping back, she realized it was just the mirror reflecting her new image, since she had recently lost over sixty pounds.
She felt like a princess. “Wow,” she said. “I can’t believe that’s me. I’m going to stay like this forever.”
Ten years later the princess found herself looking in the plane’s bathroom mirror again.
This time she gasped, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
ANOTHER FAIRY TALE ENDING
by Carol Dray
It was the morning of the most important day of her life. She was alone with her thoughts, striking out like soggy match heads those prompting her to flee.
The taffeta crackled beneath the lace of her dress as she crossed the room to her veil. For a moment, she pretended to be a princess on her way to the ball–striking a pose before the floor-length mirror.
Lifting her head she looked directly into her healing bruised eyes that had begun to tear.
Her fiancé appeared from behind.
“Now,” he said. “Now.”
Loosening from his grip, running.…
by June Kosier
Princess Johnson began to drink her morning coffee. It spilled out of her mouth.
She tried again. The coffee spilled out again.
Being a nurse, she worried that she might be having a stroke.
Her arms moved correctly. Her legs moved normally as she walked to the bathroom without a problem.
She looked in the mirror. What she saw made her think, You have got to be kidding.
Staring back at her was a face with the left side drooping and an eyelid that wasn’t in synch with the right.
“Oh, darn! It isn’t a stroke. It’s Bell’s Palsy!”
by Tom Donovan
The princess with the golden hair
Stamped her foot. “You’re so unfair!”
The mirror replied, “surely you jest.
I’ve acquiesced to your every request.”
“You sent me a frog who’s now a prince
But he burps and croaks. He’s sour as quince.
He looks like a man but sleeps in the bog.”
“Well yes,” said the mirror, “deep down he’s a frog.
I could send a regal prince your way,
But he’ll look like a frog most of the day.
Princess, dear, the problem’s thee.”
“Foolish mirror, how can that be?”
“Remember, my dear, that business with the pea?”
by Helen Fuertes
Awaking the next morning, she was thrilled to find her dream had come true.
She had kept her promise: she had slept with the hideous amphibian.
And he had kept his promise too. There he lay, smiling in his sleep by dawn’s first light. Now a handsome prince indeed!
The Princess left the bed and padded toward the bathroom. She lit a candle. She looked into the mirror to congratulate herself. Her reflection scowled back at her. Its pond-colored skin was leathery.
It opened its scummy mouth and croaked, “Good morning!”
She gasped. “You’ve got to be shitting me!”
by Jim Gallagher
The Princess looked again into the mirror and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Still only a Princess, after a forty-year career in the “royalty business,” she nevertheless feels entitled, despite decades of failed policies, blatant lies, and corruption under her watch.
She blames the proletariat’s support of a commoner who opposes her ascension to the throne. They’ll no longer tolerate any career politician who repeats costly blunders, while expecting different results—a practice described by a highly respected sage as “the definition of insanity.”
They know, by rejecting her, and all career politicians, such insanity is less likely.
THE PRINCESS AND THE PASATRAMI
by Jerry Giammatteo
The Princess and her entourage entered Katz deli in lower Manhattan. Recognizing royalty, the wait staff catered to her every whim, from the matzo ball soup to the pâté, and finally the famous pastrami on rye.
The soup was delicious and pâté exquisite. The wait staff breathed easier.
The Princess then bit into her pastrami sandwich and a frown came over her face.
“Is something wrong, your Highness?” inquired the waiter.
“This sandwich needs more Russian dressing,” she said.
The waiter fidgeted nervously. “I’m sorry, we’re out of Russian dressing,”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” the Princess said.
PRINCESS IN THE MIRROR
by Ryan Matthews
Pretty pink dresses, frills and ruffles abounded. My sisters played dress-up princess.
I secretly wanted to play too. I grabbed the fake rhinestone crown from their toy chest, placing it on my head, looking in the mirror.
“You look silly. Boys can’t play princess. They don’t play dress-up either. Now give back the tiara.” My sisters Peggy and Kay giggled.
“I was only kidding, really!”
The girls played with their dolls. Waving their Barbies in the air, both girls animated and ventriloquially chatted their dialogue.
“Can I at least play the Prince?”
Although capitulating, shaming wouldn’t squelch my creativity.
FROM HAIR TO ETERNITY
by Christine Viscuso
“Christoph, you’ve got to be kidding.” Princess Rapunzel threw the mirror at her hairdresser.
“But Rap, short hair is all the rage in the kingdom this year. Look how it brings out your finely boned features.”
Rapunzel stuck her head out of the window while her tears streamed down the brick walls. “How do you think my prince will rescue me from this dumb tower?”
“By boat, perhaps? The moat is overflowing from all your tears.”
Hours later, Prince Albert stood on the window’s ledge. “I’m here, dear Princess.”
Rapunzel screamed. “Without a boat? Idiot! Moron! I can’t swim!”
THE PERCEPTION OF POWER
by Pat Shevlin
The princess looked into her mirror, shocked.
“Where is my hair? What has happened to my hair? A woman’s crowning glory is her hair! I told you I need Drump’s magic red hair!”
The Royal Stylist was summoned.
The red, white, and blue crown had fallen over her thinning blond head, landing heavily upon her shoulders. “Get this off,” she screamed.
Princess Clary shouted to her henchwomen, “Go quickly, find Drump and behead him before I have your heads dyed red. The coronation is weeks away.”
She then contemplated her future as the people’s first queen, “I’ll be huge.”
THE MAKE-BELIEVE MAKE-OVER
By Diane Morelli
Princess Hubrissa looked again into the mirror.
“You’ve got to be kidding, Leola. I said I’m done with being the center of attention. How will that change? I still look extraordinarily beautiful.”
The cosmetologist, who dutifully applied layers of glittery makeup to camouflage acne and overgrown facial hair for the demanding customer, disagreed. “You look so ordinary, I’ll give you a full refund if anyone cruises you on your walk to the limo.”
The women shook hands.
Within minutes, the frantic princess stormed back into Leola’s Hollywood Boulevard salon. “I’ll pay you double. Restore my irresistible good looks now.”
THE FROG PRINCE
by Cathy Mayrides
The beautiful princess had to kiss some frogs to find her prince. However, her prince turned out to be a frog, so the princess needed to be a frog as well.
Her local magician gave her a spell. He guaranteed that she would be turned into a stunning frog and she and the frog prince would find true love.
She cast the spell.
She looked into the mirror and said, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Staring back was another frog prince.
So, under the Marriage Equality Act, they tied the knot and lived happily ever after. And shared clothes.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for October’s 99-word story submissions is Octoboer 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for October 8, and will stay posted for a week.
note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: firstname.lastname@example.org
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY: Write a story inspired by the following sentence: Are you trying to tell me that you never even met this person before?
Calling all published authors—
I try to feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at email@example.com.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week.