Thursday, May 22, 2008

"When I Saw the ET...."

This is SO mind-blowing! Everybody go over to Suzette Haden Elgin's blog right away and read this post entitled "Writing Science Fiction" and its responses:

It's a series of one-liner "storylets" each completing a sentence that begins with the clause, "When I saw the ET trapped in the storm drain...."

There's nothing I can say to elaborate on it, except that I wish I could do that with such apparent ease and grace.

Hmm—now I wonder what might be some other opening clauses that could yield equally enticing and provocative variations. "When the vampire flapped at my window...."?

Margaret L. Carter


  1. When I saw the vampire flap at my window I told the thing to bloody bugger off I'm trying to get some sleep.
    When I saw the vampire still flapping at my window I swatted it with my tennis racket, then told it to go home I want to get some sleep.
    I am beginning to get the hang of this. Oh there's probably a theme there as well, sleep.
    Thanks for the link, it was worth the read.

  2. Margaret:

    Yes, this is a fascinating exercise in characterization both of the "I" character and the civilization or society "I" belongs to.

    Xenophobia and how people respond to the possible threat of a STRANGER AMONG US tells so very much about the responder and nothing about the stranger.

    Putting the stranger in a "helpless" or possibly helpless position creates the CONFLICT which is the essence of story.

    Here you have the subconscious nightmare of your very civilization -- the "stranger" who is always a "danger" -- and that nightmare is itself trapped.

    That's a semantically loaded word, "trapped."

    If an ally or potential friend is trapped, you help. But if a rattlesnake or tiger is "trapped" what do you do?

    The conflict here is the need to flee vs. the need to help. It's a primal internal conflict expressed in semantically loaded terms.

    You're right, this is a brilliant exercise.

    Now build a world and a character with that conflict etched in primal fire and you'll have a best seller.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg