Friday, June 20, 2008

Sunday Scribblings: Ending

In 10th grade, I had the good fortune to make a few good friends in the midst of the painful social experience that is being a shy new kid in a private school where the other kids pretty much grew up together. My friends and I more or less did our own thing. Once you accept it, there's liberation in realizing you'll never be cool.

One of our hobbies was writing round robin stories. If you've never done one (you don't know what you're missing!), it's when one person writes a sentence or two, passes it on to the next person to add to, and so on. It can be a collaboration between two people or amongst several; most of ours were 2- or 3-way collaborations. There was no set story arc, and characters tended to appear very much at random. Video game characters mingled with manga characters and rubbed elbows with historical figures, pop culture figures, fictional characters from stories we'd both read and written, a few of our classmates, and idealized representations of ourselves. I don't know if they ever appeared in the same stories, but Hwoarang, Michael Jackson, Rufus Shinra, Kyouya Iida, Hideki Tojo, the Backstreet Boys, Richard Simmons, and Sephiroth all had cameo or starring roles in the stories at some point.

I mentioned the "no set arc" aspect of the stories very deliberately. With no set direction, a practically unending cast of characters to choose from, and only rarely a unifying theme, the stories could go on ad finitum. I think one epic spans 18 wide-ruled notebook pages. We usually found a way to finish them off in more timely ways, though. One convention became an oft-used favorite: "And then they all died. The End." This did the trick for a while, until someone decided she hadn't finished with a particular subplot. So magical resurrections entered the picture, beginning with something like, "But then, suddenly, __________ appeared and..." It was drama at its finest, and soap opera writers could've learned a thing or two from us about improbable and contrived resurrections.

We scattered a bit after that year, one friend to public high school, another to home school, and me to part-time classes at the community college. We scribbled a few more stories here and there, but they eventually began to lose the spontaneity that the originals had. We can go back and re-read them, finding humor in the inside jokes and drama that pervade the stories, but something's just not the same. The humor now stems from the memories conjured by the stories, not the stories themselves. There's no going back to that time, to that carelessness, to that complete assurance that--in spite of our peers and poor teachers--our friendships could alleviate and withstand the most trying of circumstances.

Sometimes things just come to an end. And there's no miraculous resurrection for an epoch that has run its course.


More takes on this prompt can be found at Sunday Scribblings.


SmallWorld Reads said...

What a great post. I remember doing these round-robin stories, as well, and I remember the joy of having a friend or two in high school who GOT me on the creative level. It's one thing to have friends to hang out with on weekends; it's another thing totally to have friends with whom you connect creatively.

Great ending: "Sometimes things just come to an end. And there's no miraculous resurrection for an epoch that has run its course.

Granny Smith said...

This is both nostalgic and humorous. The way my friend Lillian got out of an endless story, instead of your "and then they all died", was with "and they all lived happily ever after!"

Beautiful Witch said...

I agree with the part about liberation being found when you realise you will never be cool in highschool.

I feel some sadness coming from the fact that this post is more about lost innocence, a sort of melancholy yearning for the days when you thought you'd be friends with those people forever and the future sort of stretched out ahead of you with the promise of excitement.

I wrote the stories was so much fun. There was always someone naked in our stories at some point. :)

danni said...

i believe that like your stories, life itself is without a "set arc" --- and so we have to pick up the best parts and take them along with us on our journey, and leave the rest by the wayside --- your story is poignant - thank you!!!

sarah said...

I adore round robins. I've done them just with one friend and more than one sentence and I've done them with a class on one sentence at a time. Sometimes it amazes me how much a story written like that CAN make sense :)

Michelle said...

I've never written a round robin, but even at my age (38) I love the idea! I used to write stories and plays for my friends... how much more fun would it have been to have them join in the creativity. I miss those days. Are we too old to do a round-robin now?