Monday, February 21, 2011

Spookymilk Survivor VIII: Dewey Defeats Truman

So, after rolling to a better-than-deserved-but-still-kind-of-disappointing third place in last year's Spookymilk Survivor creative writing contest, I'm back for another round with a new team. My team, DARK STORMY KNIGHTS, seems pretty solid, and through the first four weeks, we've yet to lose a member.

For week five, the challenge was "Dewey Defeats Truman". Write a short article based on a real life news item with a drastically different outcome.

This was my submission:

May 7, 1937

The Zeppelin Hindenburg arrived in Lakehurst, New Jersey this morning, carrying 97 passengers. Though the trip itself may be considered a marginal success, the dullness of the trip left most of the patrons wanting.

“The trip itself was an awful bore” stated one of the travelers, “I mean, I know airships are safer than those awful fixed wing aircraft, but I do wish they were a little more exciting.”

The disappointing reviews, in conjunction with the financial failure of the movie Dirigible, seem certain to spell the end of the golden age of airships.

These were the judges' critiques (scores are out of 5)

K: I don’t say this often, but this one isn’t wordy enough. I love this concept – the idea that a story would be written for no other reason than to relate a story of people being bored – but a longer story would have made it just keep getting funnier, I think. 4

B: You know, there’s nothing really funny about this one. But it’s written well. And it’s short, which is a nice touch in itself, what with the Hindenburg now being a back page story. The movie tie-in is pretty sweet, although the fact it was released six years prior hurts the irony of its mention a bit. Still, nice work. 4

Overall Score: 4

First thing, I knew to avoid politics. While I enjoy discussing politics occasionally, I knew that there would be lots of political sketches (though I didn't know how many there really would be). I knew that it would be unwise to go toe-to-toe with some of the writers on a political level. That's fair enough. Besides, while it's fairly easy to write a light-hearted political spoof, it's damned tough to write well-written political satire.

The next thing I found out is that just about anything I could come up with for this challenge would bear resemblance to a certain mock news site already in existence. While I do enjoy the Onion, it tends to be formulaic, and if I wasn't careful, it would be too easy to fall into the standard Onion formula.

Once I started writing, I found that just about everything that was appearing on the screen sucked. I wrote a Grammy write-up in which Katy Perry won best album, causing Russell Brand to rush the stage and start mooning the audience, only for an angry Justin Bieber fan (Usher, as it was) to rush the stage in turn, take the Grammy out of Ms. Perry's hands and bludgeon Mr. Brand to death with it. Not good. Awful, in fact. Everything I was writing was too complicated, or too jokey, too pointlessly edgy, or just flat out DUMB.

Originally the Hindenburg piece that I went with was going to have two more paragraphs (which would have included another eyewitness account and a mini-editorial by the 'reporter'). I cut them out because they didn't make anything any funnier or better, only longer. The fact that Dirigible came out in 1931 was unfortunate, and I’m not sure if it was a financial failure or not, it was just an interesting piece of trivia, and I liked the idea that someone was deciding that airships were screwed because a movie about them did poorly. I liked how my piece - short as it was - was written. It looked like a little blurb that could have been tucked away on the fourth page. It was a little bit of a gamble (my decision to go the short route on the Battle of the Mimes challenge last year very nearly ended with my elimination*), but I decided that it was the best I could up with without sprawling into writing bloat.

* Then again no matter what length, mine would have been the worst entry that week anyway, it was a hell of a challenge, and I'd suggest anyone who hasn't seen it go check it out - very much worth a read.

I guess it didn't matter one way or the other. There were two people who didn't even submit anything, so they'll be on the block (which is disappointing, there's been a lot of great work already this contest, and none of it's meant much of anything because of the nonsubs). I'll keep this up to date, detailing my time in the contest a little better than I did last year. If nothing else, it'll be a nice time-capsule of where my headspace was at when I was writing this.