Plots I Never Finished

CURB ALERT: I’m setting out a bunch of unfinished story plots on the side of the road. First come first serve! If this post is still up, it means plots are still available. Thanks!!!!! Please no phone calls!!!!

The one about a girl trying to lure a boy first into a motel, and then into the woods, for nefarious-lite reasons (e.g., not murder, but lots of shadowy psychological manipulation). I finished several versions of this for workshop and then it just didn’t feel right so I wrote something else.

The one about a brother and sister who move to New Orleans after some unclear tragedy happens in their past. The sister starts hallucinating another self; this Other Self begins to achieve agency. This story has been through so many iterations I don’t even know what to do with it. Free to a good home.

The one where the title was filched directly from a Bolaño novel. It was a good title!!! I just couldn’t bring myself to, you know, steal it. And adding in some sort of attribution (after Bolaño or whatever) makes the page look so messy. Ironically, months later I stole the ending from this story and grafted it onto another story, which was published here. The weird thing is that I don’t really remember doing this. It’s as though I went into a Dr. Frankenstein-like trance, committed the surgery, and then woke with no memory of my horrific kleptomaniacal deed!!!

The one where my former best friend became a cannibal and ate her brother, because it was the apocalypse and everyone was starving. THIS ONE WAS REALLY WEIRD. No wonder a bunch of lit mags rejected it.

The one about Anne Boleyn’s beheading. Who hasn’t tried to write this story?? #Tudoriffic

The terrible one about a guy who ran a store in Highland Park, Los Angeles, where he sold old film cameras and sheaves of developed film. I wrote this one this past summer in a feverish desire to rack up page counts. I was flushed with victory, having just finished a 35-page story in a week, and felt that I could do anything, even write stories about men with MFAs in Performance Art who own old film stores (insert vaguely meaningful social commentary about art here). Alas, the manuscript limps along for a while and then just falls to the ground, exhausted, like a small deer who’s been chased by cheetahs for hours. Note: this simile has not been fact-checked.

The one about the dream I had where I was a journalist who follows Amy Winehouse into a surreal underground funhouse. Note to self: dreams rarely translate well into stories.

The one that began, “Astrid was always very wounded. I never quite knew what she wanted.” If I had a dime for every time I tried to name a character Astrid…

The one that began, “I read history books; I learn from the best.” Note to self: good opening line.

The one about parents who set their house on fire and kids who run away and vanish into the woods. Thematically similar to a lot of my early stories, wherein a Bad Thing happens inside the house, because the house itself is sort of a demonic figure, and salvation is found in nature, or, escape is found in nature, or salvation is escape, or escape is salvation, or something. Weirdly, there is a fish pond in this story and one of the kids accidentally steps on a fish and kills it. Like…that would never happen in real life, right? Fish are far too fast!

The one about the girl who goes fishing with her grandpa for the ghost of her dead sister but then it turns out her grandpa is already dead and her grandma is some sort of witch. A super traumatizing tale that doesn’t make a lot of sense (sample line: “I was scratching at his back, feeling the old fabric of his shirt shred under my fingernails and feeling his dry dead skin come off in strips.” EESH) but what can I say? I was working a 9-5 at the time; my brains were addled by capitalism!

Things I’m Genuinely Bad At, Part Two

Some time ago, I bared my soul to the world in the iconic post Things I’m Genuinely Bad At. That was the essay wherein I composed what may be my greatest line of all time: “You are probably never going to be a pop star and I am probably never going to be a neuroscientist, so it’s time to let certain dreams go so that we can focus on what’s truly important: making a lot of money while looking hot.”

O YOUNG TORI!!!!!

Anyway, today is not a day for nostalgia. Today is a day for self-reflection, for self-flagellation, for staring into the mirror and shrieking “WHY, CRUEL SELF, WHY?” And so I present you with Things I’m Genuinely Bad At, 2017 version.

Answering emails and texts in a timely fashion. It’s just too much stimulation, okay? Note that in 2013, I was also bad at this.

Maintaining a healthy level of skepticism about hippie remedies that I read about in comment sections. Now and then I find myself reading an article about Natural Ways to Remain Fabulous in Your 80s, and someone in the comment section says, apropos of nothing, “I eat a teaspoon of coconut oil mixed with lots of cayenne pepper every morning. It stimulates digestion and doubles as a preventative measure against common household pests! Also, I heat rocks in the oven and place them on my temples every time I have a hangover. I swear it works!” If I stumble across a comment like that, I cannot help but believe it. There’s something about the misspelled innocence of certain comment sections, the enthusiasm of crunchy oversharers, that instantly turns me into a disciple. “THIS PERSON IS FULL OF LIVED EXPERIENCE,” my brain shrieks. “HEAT UP ROCKS IN THE OVEN IMMEDIATELY.”

Getting MacArthur Genius Grants. This one’s pretty embarrassing, LOL!

Sitting still for long periods of time. Halfway through an hour-long phone interview the other day, I was leaping around my kitchen like a gnat, silently screaming into the phone. If a sermon is too long, I may sketch out story ideas in the margins of the bulletin. If you are in a band and your set is longer than 45 minutes, I can and will plot your death. How can we as a culture buy into the paleo diet but not understand that humans were not designed to sit in meetings, like, ever???

Longboarding. My fear of “going too fast” really bites me in the leg here.

Staying warm. Left to my own devices, I produce zero body heat. This is why you can occasionally find me sitting in my local gym’s steam room in full winter regalia, despite aggressive signage demanding that people steam in “shorts or bathing suit only.” Put on a bathing suit in January? Are you KIDDING?

 [Formerly] Fighting off fungus gnats. If you spoke to me during a certain few weeks in early December, you know that I was a woman possessed. Charlie and I have many, many houseplants in our apartment and they came down with a nasty fungus gnat infestation, for reasons that I cannot pretend to understand. I waged war against them for a couple of weeks, sobbing at my own futility (there are only so many gnats a lady can crush with her bare hands before going nearly insane!!!!) until finally, a few judicious insecticide purchases from Amazon killed most of the awful little beasts. I like to consider myself a compassionate person; I dislike eating meat for the obvious reasons, I would never crush a baby sparrow underfoot. But when it comes to fungus gnats, I turn into something else entirely—a thing without mercy. In the immortal words of James Cameron’s Terminator, “It can’t be bargained with; it can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity or remorse or fear and it absolutely will not stop—ever—until you are dead!”