Bootcamp Bonanza

Last Saturday we had our fourth weekly Writing Bootcamp with Jessica Zafra via Zoom, and this time we presented the opening paragraphs of our short story projects. One of my favorite things about writing workshops is having a trapped audience for my futile attempts at stand-up comedy. And with everyone’s face on camera it’s easier to read what works and what is cringe-y.

I was the first to present my story with the working title The Mansion, about a palliative care doctor who attempts to address her father’s hoarding addiction by treating it like a terminal disease. I wrote the first few paragraphs rather quickly, which I find to be a sign that I will be able to see it through to the end. Here’s hoping I won’t get into a major roadblock. I have long avoided writing short stories about doctors, thinking it would a.) get boring b.) be difficult to inject humor in, and c.) risk crossing data privacy and other sensitivity issues, but last year Jessica asked me to try my hand at it and I think it went fairly well.

Lord, who is staying in Baguio, then presented a story based on his relationship with his nephews and nieces. Lord is a mindfulness coach who blogs at http://www.surrendertocourage.com. Whereas my sentences and entries are long, frantic, winding, and histrionic, his always have a soothing, relaxing quality. Ella’s story is about motherhood presented through different timelines, sort of like Sliding Doors or the parallel universes in the DC Multiverse. Jillian’s short story is about a man going through some mind-altering process to deal with the difficulties of being middle-aged.

For some reason I always
forget the title of this book
and I always say
“basta yung something HAPPY”

An issue raised with the type of Jillian’s story is the tendency for writers of similar genre to over-explain the mind-altering mechanism, such as getting into the neurophysiology or pharmacology of it. For one, an expert in the field is bound to find some scientific errors in your story somehow. Readers might also find it too cumbersome to read if not written well.

This reminds me of a book I’ve read recently, More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, which is being adapted into a TV series for the new US streaming service HBO Max. In it Aaron, a gay teenager, wants to become straight, so he undergoes some brain-zapping procedure. The nitty gritty of the procedure is not really explained, which is something I appreciate. I’m content enough with imagining that there are 80’s-looking TV screens and probes inside an aluminum foil-covered room, now the story can quickly move along. Sort of like the movie Boy Erased, with a machine instead of a self-loathing gay Christian pastor with a porn-stache.

Next Saturday’s assignment: dialogue!



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