Gimmickey/Premisey

I like to read and write premisey things. (Haters call them gimmicky things, but so does Chris Bachelder, who is not a hater but, in fact, a lover and writer of premisey things.) Donald Barthelme spent most of his career coming up with wacky premises and then redeeming them.

Here’s a story by Chelsea Martin that redeems a premise through hilarious logical jumps: McDonald’s Is Impossible. I was going to email her about it because I am trying to get better about emailing people I don’t know when they do something I like, but I think it’s probably even better to go public

This year, I’ve written a bunch of stories in a similar pattern:

1. I have an idea for a story and think, “That would be funny” or “That would be a fun way to get at what I think about x issue.”

2. I write the story and it is kind of funny. But then there’s also something in the draft that interests me more than original thing.

3. I chase the new thing. I write a lot more. I delete some funny parts. I delete some topical parts.

4. I end up with something that baffles me a little bit but is much closer to the kind of story I’d like to read than whatever my original plan was.

5. I hand the finished product over to a man in with expensive shoes and he gives me a check for $10,000.

6. Liz and I gorge ourselves at Osaka.

7. Our sushi lust creates greater demand and more fish are killed.

8. We worry about the mercury content and order only rolls with sweet potato, avocado, cucumber and fake crab (aka krab).

9. I publicly disclose the time (7pm every Sunday) and location (corner of Bright and King) of my meetings with the expensive shoes man. I publicly disclose that he pays me in cash and that in the bag there isn’t GPS tracking or an 80’s No Country For Old Men-style tracking device.

10. A bad person reads it and beats the pulp out of my benefactor before I arrive. The bad person takes my money. I do not give chase.

11. I find a new benefactor.

12. Repeat.

I like to write gimmicky/premisey stuff because its easy to get started. It’s fun to watch good stories come out of terrible first drafts. The flip side is that I abandon stories all the time, like that one, “The Process and the Benefactor.”

Unrelated: I’ve been reading Tao Lin‘s blog for a few months. It’s always interesting and sometimes he writes his way to something really cool, but I wasn’t sure what to think until I sought out some of his stories. Now I’m convinced he’s legit. This one’s great, from his book, Bed: Love Is A Thing On Sale For More Money Than There Exists. Something about these sweeping national paragraphs rubbing up against the personal and embarrassing, the terrorists and the late girlfriend.

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