Rising from a Shallow Grave, TMAS is Back!

by on February 15th, 2011
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As some of you followers of this site may already know, the illustrious and formerly prolific Abby Greenhill has decided to forsake the unbelievably lucrative bounty of page-view remuneration for other pursuits, among them falconry. On her way out the door, I caught her attention long enough to seek her blessing to continue a certain part of her former output. Said blessing was duly rendered, so on we go.

We will miss her informative prose, to be sure, but some of us will especially miss a feature she sometimes ran, called “Tell Me a Story.” For those who may not be familiar with the challenge (or who may have forgotten, since it has been a while), here is how it goes: the narrator will provide six words or phrases, all of which must be put into a very short story. I would strongly recommend that you use no more that twelve sentences (two for each item). While I can be a little flexible about that guideline, don’t send me War and Peace.

If you choose to accept the challenge, you must use all six words or phrases as they are. Sorry, no substitutions, synonyms or harsh detergents. On the other hand, you may skew the meanings of these six items far from their expected use, if that works for you, just as long as whatever you produce still maintains some degree of logic within the English language. I will illustrate this point in the example I will provide, below.

There will be a few differences from my version of TMAS and Ms. Greenhill’s. That is not to say her way of doing it was wrong, flawed or unsatisfactory. It was always an interesting exercise for both participants and readers. My main interest in making these changes is to save a bit on correspondence.

For one thing, Abby used to accept entries by invitation only. You had to express interest in participating, then be invited by her to do so. It made for a lot of time-consuming back-and-forth. In the renewed edition of “Tell Me a Story,” anyone who wants to participate in any edition may submit an entry and expect to see his or her work in the follow-up article. If I get too many replies to fit into one article, I will publish as many follow-ups as I’ll need to get everyone’s work into the spotlight. I will reserve the right to cull out any highly-inappropriate material. That said, I am talking only about extreme bad taste, such as prejudicial hate-speech. I do encourage you to be as wild and creative as you can be.

Related to that change, there will no longer be a bar to entering two exercises in a row, as there used to be, not because the former administrator was at all mean-spirited, but because she wanted to give as many people as possible a chance to participate.

Finally, your narrator is not asking you to do anything he wouldn’t do himself. In every forthcoming exercise, I will post an entry of my own, and, whatever remarks that may follow about which ones are the best, will never include mine. Consider my stuff just an exhibition game.

Now, in an effort to clarify the concept of how this works, I will provide a segment from a past “Tell Me a Story” edition, using my entry as an example. The six items Abby chose were:

Bride and groom
Shot glass
Chicken pot pie
The Great Smokey Mountains
Belly laughs.

This was my entry:

“Look, we have to economize,” I told the prospective bride and groom. “I have to pay for this extravagant wedding in the Great Smokey Mountains, instead of a much cheaper site in the Adequate Hazy Foothills. I’m here to tell you, my budget is just about shot. Glass shards will do fine for the knives and forks, so we don’t need to spend all that dough on fancy silverware.

“Also, I’ve cut out that expensive band you wanted. Your cousin Arnie can entertain us plenty, accompanying himself on the accordion. He always gets big belly laughs when he sings his version of ‘Over the Rainbow,’ right?

“Besides, it’s not like I scrimped on the menu. I got your favorite meat, recreational drug, dessert and beverage, sweetie: chicken, pot, pie and malt liquor. What more could you ask for?”

There it is. Note that the words are not case-sensitive and can be used in any order you like, as long as you include them all.

Now the time has come to throw the gauntlet out (or down, as the case may be). Here are the six items you will have to work with:

woolen underwear
do the locomotion
doctor’s office

If you want to participate, but have questions, please send them, preferably in the comments section, so that others can benefit from whatever clarification I might be able to provide. After all, this is not a competition.

You will have until 5:00PM, EST, this coming Thursday, to get your entries in. I will hope to publish the article(s) with the results, the following Monday. Fair enough?

Good, let’s sharpen up those wits and start telling some stories.



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