Friday, February 20, 2009

Tandem Writing

This is just a little fun for a Friday.

My critique group has played with Tandem Writing exercises. One was called One Immortal Too Many. It was a combination of Highlander, Lonesome Dover, The Outlaw Years, and La Femme Nikita. That was a long time ago, and I'd forgotten about it until I came across this EMail someone sent me.

It shows that tandem writing can go very wrong. Take a look at this supposedly real exercise that was turned in when an English teacher randomly paired students:

THE ASSIGNMENT: Today we will write a tandem story in pairs. One of you will write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will continue the story by writing the second paragraph. The first person will write the third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Keep the flow going for a coherent story.

THE RESULT submitted by "Rebecca" and "Gary:"

Rebecca: At first, Laurie couldn't decide which kind of tea she wanted. The camomile, which used to be her favorite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Carl, who once said, in happier times, that he liked camomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Carl. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So camomile was out of the question.

Gary: Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron in orbit over Skylon 4, had more important things to think about than the air-headed asthmatic bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. "A.S. Harris to Geostation 17," he said into his communicator. "Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far...". But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam blasted a hole through his ship's cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.

Rebecca: He bumped his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Skylon 4. "Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel." Laurie read in her newspaper one morning. She stared out the window, dreaming of her youth -- when the days had passed unhurriedly and carefree, with no newspapers to read, no television to distract her from her sense of innocent wonder at all the beautiful things around her.

Gary: Little did she know, she had less than 10 seconds to live. The dim-witted peaceniks who'd passed the Aerospace Disarmament Treaty had left earth a defenseless target for aliens. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu'udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his submarine headquarters off the coast of Guam, felt the massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and 85 million other Americans. "We can't allow this!" the President declared. "I'm going to veto that treaty! Let's blow 'em out of the sky!"

Rebecca: This is absurd. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic, semi-literate adolescent.

Gary: Yeah? Well, you're a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.

Rebecca: A-hole.

Gary: Bitch.


Happy writing and reading.

Mallory Kane
If You're Looking for a Hero...


  1. That story is absolutely hilarious. Thanks for giving me a laugh this morning. And yes it sounds like something that would have happened if I had made that assignment to my ninth graders when I was teaching.

  2. Thanks for the laugh today, I needed it. Loved the story.

  3. Loved the story. Communication isn't it wonderful?

  4. LoL! That was hilarious. Let's see, the last time I did tandem writing was in 7th grade (our own idea, not an assignment). It included penguins - and not just any ol' penguins. Don't remember much else though. Too bad I lost the paper.