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STC 1: Being Gorgeous


Write a paragraph to a page (150-300 words) of narrative that’s meant to be read aloud. Use onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition, rhythmic effects, made-up words or names, dialect — any kind of sound-effect you like — but NOT rhyme or meter.

The result:

It hurts. It hurts so much. It hurts so much his whole body leaps toward the tiny blossoming miracle of pain blooming up across his face and inside his jaw. He stumbles, corrects. Something comes alive inside, something kept dormant week by starving week, awakened now inside the cage by the shouts of the others and the way Singer bounces and claps, by his idiot grin and his hooting. Thank you, he wants to say, thank you so very fucking much.

But there’s no time, just his fist, and he misses bad and rockets forward. He’s so slow, now, so stupidly and terribly slow, and he gets a fist in his gut and a hand on his throat but there’s a tiny voice inside that says don’t give up, don’t give up and he won’t, he won’t, he promises he won’t. His face is in the fence. His knees are on the ground.

“Heard you were sick,” the other guy says. “Heard you had a thing for little girls.”

The laugh sprouts out of him like a new tree — all spikes and cones and rough bark. It squeezes out of his throat newborn and wet, and he throws his head back to let it free because they don’t know, they just really don’t know, they’ve got no fucking clue, about the mistake they’ve just made.

This dude always speaks in present tense. His partner speaks in past. This is quite bothersome.

I had to really work hard on this one, which is why I’m sad that it’s not prettier. The exercise is called “Being Gorgeous,” and my prose should be full of all kinds of active verbs and luscious adjectives and words which are fun to say. It should sound like Pratchett or Adams, and it doesn’t. My prose is hopelessly suburban.

  • Madeline Ashby… a science fiction writer, futurist, speaker, and immigrant living in Toronto. She writes a column for the Ottawa Citizen. She is represented by Anne McDermid & Associates, and Jason Richman at UTA. You can buy her books here.

    She has worked with Intel Labs, the Institute for the Future, SciFutures, Nesta, Data & Society, The Atlantic Council, the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in Nature, FLURB, Tesseracts, Imaginarium, and Escape Pod. Her other essays and criticism have appeared at BoingBoing, io9, WorldChanging, Creators Project, Arcfinity,, MISC Magazine, FutureNow, and elsewhere.

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    Madeline Ashby's books on Goodreads
    vN vN (The Machine Dynasty, #1)
    reviews: 342
    ratings: 2160 (avg rating 3.43)

    Company Town Company Town
    reviews: 232
    ratings: 1217 (avg rating 3.68)

    iD iD (The Machine Dynasty, #2)
    reviews: 73
    ratings: 439 (avg rating 3.66)

    Social Services Social Services
    reviews: 3
    ratings: 10 (avg rating 3.50)

    A Clock Stopped A Clock Stopped
    reviews: 2
    ratings: 5 (avg rating 4.20)

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  • Madeline 's bookshelf: read

    Designing for Interaction: Creating Innovative Applications and Devices (2nd Edition)Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways: To Incorporate Whole & Natural Ingredients into Your CookingGluten-Free Girl and the ChefPeople Crossing Borders: An Analysis of U.S. Border Protection PoliciesHalf the Day Is NightThe Magicians

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