I know I don’t speak up much in our creative writing class, or show up at all, and when I do I shove my desk back so I can lean my head on the wall and listen to my iPod, but I really found myself interested in story you handed in. So, if you don’t mind, I have some ideas for your revision.
I really like what you’re doing with the present tense, and the girl character—I forget her name, Wanda or Jackie—was spot-on. Her cleft palate felt really authentic, you know?
But the part for me that wasn’t believable was the last half, when the protagonist eats hallucinogenic mushrooms. Because all he does is listen to music and go on for pages about metaphysical stuff like time and death, which is—don’t get me wrong—massively interesting, like I totally love philosophy and Proust and stuff. But don’t stories need some action? Isn’t that what we learned from that Freytag guy on the first day?
Let me give you some advice, from a guy who has taken mushrooms before. The first thing that’s going to happen to him is that the carpet is going to start moving like an ocean. And he’ll lie on it for a while, feeling the waves, and it’ll remind him of the last time he went swimming. Which was when he went to Branson for spring break and totally messed things up with his girlfriend by introducing some peyote into his consciousness before dinner with her parents. You can use flashback to show how the restaurant went all navy blue and the waiter kept floating back to the table and counting the forks in his mind, to the point where our protagonist asked him to please exit and let him concentrate on his alfredo, except instead of concentrate he said defecate and his then-girlfriend stood up and ran off to the bathroom and her parents starting barking at him like dogs.
But back to your story.
So at this point—the carpet, the waves?—he’ll get really interested in the idea of calling his ex-girlfriend. Of course you’ll have to expand this character of the ex-girlfriend. Wanda or Jackie would work for that, if you get rid of the cleft palate. So about an hour after eating mushrooms, he’s going to break down and call his ex. She won’t answer, because it’s really late and she turns her phone on silent when she’s up late practicing her violin. You might have some POV issues with this. But that’s your problem.
After calling a few times and just really grooving to the sound of her ringer, what if he gets up and decides to drive to her house, but his car won’t start, either because it’s out of gas or because he can’t quite remember which of the holes the key should go into? Like our prof said, there’s no bigger motivator for a strong protagonist than the most unexpected of obstacles.
So after that, let’s say he gets on the bus at the corner. Which arrives right when he walks there, and it’s like a magical moment for him, really special that this bus pulls up right when he gets to the stop. You might want to emphasize the quality of light, or the shape of the moon or something here to really pound in the fact that he’s having a freaking epiphany.
The thing about mushrooms? From someone who knows? Is that there is a lot of room for epiphany. Like, you can have one right after the other—boom, boom, boom. You don’t have to limit yourself to one like Chekhov always does. The protagonist is like, “Wow, I just realized I hardly ever use the word “thread” in a sentence, like I have said that word maybe forty-seven times in my whole life, and now I want to see what happens if I try using that word all the time. And would my dog and I actually be friends if we were both people or both dogs? And—”
Oh, right. Sorry. The narrative. The protagonist gets on the bus, but let’s say he forgot all his money and his bus pass, because he wasn’t really thinking when he left the house, because of the mushrooms, and all he has is his cell phone and this weird ball of yarn-type thing in his pocket that’s really colorful, but he can’t figure out what it is exactly. And the bus driver has a lot of hair on his arms—like, some kind of mythical creature—and your protagonist gets so wrapped up in thinking about this hair, man, that he’s staring and staring and the moon is really coming in through the windshield, and finally the werewolf is like—go have a seat, young man, and get away from me.
And the narrator finds a slick seat and stands next to it for a while, because it feels right, until the driver is booming, sit down before I go over a bump and you go flying.
And the narrator looks in the rearview mirror and sees not the werewolf’s face looking back at him, but—get this—the face of his own father. And he grins real hard to himself and he thinks, “Yeah man, I’ve always been flying.” And he sits down and just laughs so freaking hard, like he’s got the universe in his chest and it’s trying to get out.
What? Does he make it to the ex-girlfriend’s? Seriously, man? That’s up to you. I’m not going to write your whole story.