The frantic scratching of pens against paper rivaled the voice of the moderator informing everyone how much time is left.
“Only thirty seconds left.”
Will you finish in time?
The pens moved faster, pouring ink onto the page in a flood.
“Time is up.” The pens dropped and collectively the group of writers took a breath. For some, perhaps the first breath taken in the last two minutes. Wiping their brows, the group glanced at one another. How would their stories turn out? Would they be able to win the vote of the audience?
At Ravencon this weekend, I attended a Write-Off. Nine of the guests gathered, all writers. In teams of three, the poor souls then found themselves subjected to tandem writing assignments devilishly thought up by the crowd.
The first three writers made their way to the table, sat, and picked up their pens. The audience shouted out ideas for the group to write about. Given the character of a “gay dutch policeman”, the three had two minutes to begin the stories their teammates would complete. The second group continued the story with the setting of a construction site of a medieval castle. The teams wrapped up with the third writer needing to craft a microwave oven into these wild and wacky tales.
Two minutes each. Three insane topics. Can a team of three writers pull it together to make some sort of a coherent story?
The three teams performed well. Each story was creative, and entertaining. For those of us in the crowd, we faced a tough vote. With a determined winner, the three teams prepared for round two.
Ahh, here comes the twist. A fourth team entered the fray, chosen from the audience. We could pit ourselves against the published authors. Dare we try? Can we pull it off?
Two brave women, and I, gave it our all.
The first on our team sat. Her subject? A professional fish salesman! I exchanged fretful looks with my other standing teammate. This would be tough. She’s next up.
“Neverland Ranch!” Someone shouts from the audience when the moderator asked for a setting. Things only grew more twisted from there.
I took my place, the final writer in this round. The one who would have to tie things together around… a nose hair trimmer? I groaned. Impossible! Michael Jackson has no nose! I felt doomed.
Biting my lip, I clutched at my pen. The clock began its merciless countdown. Two minutes. A minute and a half. Before I knew it, I was down to only 10 seconds. I placed my last period on the paper as the last second slipped by.
My teammates gathered around me. We studied at our paper, covered in various forms of chicken scratch. After only a few minutes to clean the mess up, we read it to the audience. Graciously, our first writer volunteered for that dubious honour.
As she finished the last line, the crowd roared with laughter. They loved our crazy little story! Better yet, we saw the professional writers cringe. Each of their teams read, and then the audience voted. It ended up unanimously in our favor! The UnPub’s!
It is great that so many writers participated, knowing the sort of torture that would come at the hands of devoted fans. You never know what darkness lies in the collective mind of a crowd of people. Thankfully, the writers were good sports and well versed in their craft.
Definitely stressful, I have to admit that this was one of the most fun writing events I ever participated in. Would I do it again? Well, I have been told I’m crazy! Why not?
Read our story below:
“We have a tuna steak that people come from three states to try,” said Thomas, eyeing the young couple. “But, you two look like swordfish people to me. Am I right, folks? Am I right?” He hefted an enormous, glassy-eyed fish.
“Oh, we like all kind of fish,” said the man, scratching a bushy mustache. “But we’re really in the area to visit the ranch.” He points at a landmark in the distance. “So, what we’d like to know is – if Michael Jackson wanted a fish, what type would he buy?”
His wife looked uncomfortable beside him. She rolled her eyes. How on earth had she ended u here? Who in their right mind would bring her to Neverland Ranch? Worse yet, who would buy a high quality replica of Michael Jackson’s nose hair trimmer complete with jewel encrusted handle in the design of a tulip, a gift from a dutch policeman Michael Jackson had once known?