February 20, 2010

A creative writing assignment.

Tell a story about something that, told simply, would be self-aggrandizing, but tell it in a way that is not self-aggrandizing.

46 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

I'd want to tell a story about the evils of women's hair removal, unfortunately there's no way I can work in the self-aggrandizing element. Sorry.

Peter

littlebeartoe said...

I once risked sustained minor injuries rescuing a puppy from certain death. But it jumped out of the blender and onto the pre-heated frying pan, so, there it went.

J Melcher said...

When Ronald Reagan sent me to Europe in 1984, the world trembled under fear and threat of the Soviet Union. By 1990, when I left ... well, I had helped dispel that fear and dispose of that threat.

True. Me and about 200,000 others, continuing work begun under Truman...

Julius Ray Hoffman said...

"Self-aggrandizing?" I don't think I know how to do that. I think I write well; I can toss off an effectively provocative witticism before the comment count gets to 5 if I need to. Still, this task – forcing oneself to be self-aggrandizing – is a little beyond my capabilities.

How about you, Althouse? Would you care to regale us with your own humble self-aggrandizement?

AJ Lynch said...

When I went to sea, the USSR dissolved in a matter of days. No lie. Sure it was just 5-day Holiday Cruise to the Bahamas but I suspect I had something to do with it.

Ann Althouse said...

The idea is: You have a story to tell, but it is self-aggrandizing, and you don't want to be self-aggrandizing, so you use your writing skills to tell the story in a way that is not self-aggrandizing.

People sometimes say, "I don't want to brag, but" and then they say the thing they know is bragging.

My assignment is to take one of those things, but using sophisticated storytelling, make it so the reader will not feel the self-aggrandizement.

It's not necessarily a project that can be done here in the comments. I'm genuinely interested in how one can tell a story that invites rejection as self-aggrandizing so that people will not look at it that way.

edutcher said...

I manned the counter at the McDonald's at the UN.

Some might say I worked with a global organization to alleviate world hunger, but I'm not the kind to blow my own horn.

Dark Eden said...

I have very strong looking thighs for a white man.

EDH said...

I tried to squeeze myself into a pair of Isabel Mastache penis trousers, but it just wouldn't fit... because they don't come in anything over a size 34" waist.

Commander McBragg.

Scott said...

I would, but right now I have to leave for an AA meeting to humbly give thanks, and share the Higher Power-imparted experience, strength, and hope that has kept me sober for 26 years.

(Do I win?)

:)

wv: satiate

Gahrie said...

I was once a long-term substitute school teacher at a middle school.

Towards the end of the year we took a field trip to San Diego to see some museums and go to the beach.

When we got to the beach, about half of the four hundred students went into the water, but only one of the chaperones did. The waves were breaking pretty hard. A group of six students got caught in a rip current. The chaperone swam out to them.

The students paniced and grabbed onto each other and the the chaperone and the whole group was stuck right at the surf line, with waves breaking over them about every thirty seconds.

The chaperone was getting weak and disorientated trying to tread water with six kids hanging on him and was starting to go down when the lifeguards finally swam out to them.

Once he was out of the water, and trying to catch his breath, the mother of one of the rescued students started chewing out the chaperone who swam out to the kids.

After the lifeguards lectured all of the students on the field trip they were allowed back in the water and this time a half dozen chaperones went into the water.

Jake said...

The master of this genre... Eugene Sledge.

Sarah said...

This is tricky, because so often it ends up being painfully transparent that you're not really trying to be humble at all.

I figure the only way to do it is to actually totally gloss over the self-aggrandizing parts and then focus on funny/embarrassing/interesting details, but then people never really KNOW that you're trying to brag!

I'll try one:

(Simple form): When I was eleven, I competed on Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but ended up losing first place in a tie-breaker round.

(Non self-aggrandizing): When I was eleven, I was in a geography bee. I now own a videotape of myself as a chunky, smug eleven-year old who declined to high-five the host because I guess I thought I was just too cool for school, with my hair over-curled in the way that was stylish for a brief period in the early '90s, and never again after.

I lost to a nine-year old because I couldn't remember the capital of Ohio.

-Sarah Chan

PatCA said...

I just read Catcher in the Rye again and was struck by it's tone--how Holden's boasting and self-aggrandizing was such a sad cover for his own loneliness. So his telling of his story, his subtext, was ultimately not self-aggrandizing at all but pitiable.

I know, I'm cheating, but I think I should get extra credit for reading a book!

Ann Althouse said...

@PatCA At first I thought of that as the reverse of my assignment, but it really isn't. In my assignment, the character wants to be thought well of and wants to tell a story that will make people admire him. But he's caught in a bind, because readers might think he's being self-aggrandizing. So he needs to find a way to aggrandize and not aggrandize at the same time

In your example, there is a character who self-aggrandizes and we judge him not to be grand. But it is often the case that a person brags and is thought ill of because of that. It's precisely the negative judgment that the writer in my assignment is trying to avoid.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Now you've changed the assignment. The original assignment said nothing about making people think well of you.

I think Gahrie nailed the assignment as originally written.

Sea Urchin said...

Also, it's not Brian Regan's funniest, but talk of self-aggrandizing people always reminds me of this bit.

(Of course, the people in the bit aren't even trying to hide it. They're all a bit eager to share how awesome they are, but then most people do tend to be that way, to some degree.)

The Crack Emcee said...

My step-father is Charles Mingus. My sister sang back-up for Sly Stone, Earth Wind and Fire, and Steely Dan. Maya Angelou was my babysitter. I used to walk to school with Ice-T. Ice Cube was in my God-Mother's art class. I went to school with Todd Bridges, "Cindy Brady", Ike Ikeman ("Escape From Witch Mountain" and other Disney films) and the guys from Toto - who my best friend still rehearses with.

The Jazz pioneer, Eubie Blake, used to come to my house and sing to me. Shock G (AKA "Humpty-Hump") used to sleep on my couch. The first label to sign a band I was in (with Michael Franti) was Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles. I've shared the stage with the likes of Billy Bragg and Sonic Youth. I got so big I once turned down a personal invitation to party at Metallica's house.

I've written for the theatre, sold a song for a children's TV show in Canada, worked as a model for Bank of America, and Country Joe McDonald ("The Vietnam Rag") amongst others, picked two songs of mine as the best anti-war songs he ever heard.

I've been called a musical genius more times than I can count but, now, no one will help me work in music again, and I mostly get heckled as "crazy" online, because I seriously don't like the excruciatingly painful effects NewAge has had on my life or my country's culture.

And the current state of my field drives me crazy.

I don't mean to brag, but,...wouldn't you love to be me?

stutefish said...

(simple form) I got into a fight with a neighbor kid who was bullying my little sister.

(non self-aggrandizing) I got into a fight with a neighbor kid who was bullying my little sister. He kicked my ass, and I limped home with a split lip and no satisfaction. My little sister and I played at the other end of the street until the bully moved away.

MadisonMan said...

I am Dr. Amy Bishop. But I'm not a sociopath.

Mark O said...

In March of 1943 I was drafted into the United States Army. I served in England and France with the 29th Infantry Division and went home to my family at the end of the war.

I am now an old man.

Terry said...

When I was a boy my old man left my Mom & me.
When I was a young man I found him and kicked his ass.
He never should've named me Sue.

Michael Hasenstab said...

The doctors said that my penis-reduction surgery was as successful as any they'd performed.

Oligonicella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark O said...

According to recognized authorities, I am only modestly oversized.

Earth Girl said...

For me, Mark O. nailed it. Although as someone who qualifies for some senior discounts (not all), I have found great joy in growing old. It is an accomplishment to grow old gracefully.

Donna B. said...

I think I fulfilled this assignment in another thread somewhere but I'm too modest to point out which one.

Jake said...

"In my assignment, the character wants to be thought well of and wants to tell a story that will make people admire him. But he's caught in a bind, because readers might think he's being self-aggrandizing."

Sorry, I misunderstood the assignment. Eugene Sledge wrote an autobiography that made people admire him, despite his not recognizing anything admirable about himself.

Oligonicella said...

Previous post deleted because I was embarrassed by my accomplishment that it disclosed.

Henry said...

"I AM Spartacus"

jag said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jag said...

After the plane crashed into the building, I rushed into the lobby and began to pull the nuns and orphans out of the rubble. I was so clumsy at it!! Even bumped one of the kid's heads on the bent doorframe (sorry, Timmy!). Anyway, then I managed to turn off the gas lest a massive fire break out but, gosh, as my wife knows, I'm so inept at mechanical things I think I almost shut off power to half the city! Then I found the puppies...

emery coen said...

I never use the word I when I write or speak about myself, express thoughts I may hold, or create something regarding me. I'm subtle, skilled, and interesting.

He played silly games. Very narcissistic.

Paul said...

My parents were away for two weeks in August 1969 so I took the middle seat out of the family VW bus, put in a mattress, and drove to Woodstock. I was 16. I actually had bought the ticket and gotten the updates on where it was being moved to. When I got near the farm the road became nearly impassible due to all the cars parked on both sides of it and the people streaming away from the concert. It was raining pretty hard and when I talked to the people leaving they all told me it sucked, there was mud everywhere, no toilets, and you couldn't even hear the music. One radical-type guy told me he thought it was a plot to get all the hippies together and the government would gas them. So I just pulled the VW over and hung out for the weekend, hanging out, and sharing my food with other people. One hippie girl was talking about who she would fuck no questions asked, and it was Bob Dylan. There was a little stream nearby and she was talking about skinny-dipping but didn't do it. It wasn't the kind of day that made you feel like swimming. A guy was saying that in college a professor asked them what fruit or vegetable reminded them of a sexual organ and he said a coconut reminded him of a vagina because it was hairy on the outside but wet and soft inside. I thought that was a stretch but I still remember it. On Sunday there were a bunch of people who needed rides down to the city so I loaded them up and drove down, then drove back to Connecticut. That was right before I went camping on St. Johns for three weeks and when I got back I was surprised to find out that Woodstock was supposed to be this giant big deal. I was there and I hadn't even heard any of the music. I liked the Newport Rock Festival that summer more. They had a lot of great bands and the weather was good. So, yeah, I as at Woodstock.

clint said...

I think Sarah nailed it.

M.E. said...

Julius wins the thread! Look how he sandwiched the self-aggrandizing part ("I think I write well; I can toss off an effectively provocative witticism before the comment count gets to 5 if I need to") in the middle of the "gee I can't do this" paragraph. He hid it so well that I don't think anybody really even noticed it!

Very good, Julius.

knox said...

They're all a bit eager to share how awesome they are, but then most people do tend to be that way, to some degree.

... just pick up a women's magazine (or one of those autobiographical lifestyle articles in the NYT). Countless times on the Althouse blog have we made fun of how the writers stealth brag at every opportunity.

knox said...

I won a state poetry contest when I was 10. The non-braggy part is that even now I'd never want anyone to read it. I'm not kidding.

Almost Ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil said...

Spring forward, fall back,
Not once have I forgotten;
I'm in Arizona. - a haikoops.

PatCA said...

"So he needs to find a way to aggrandize and not aggrandize at the same time."

Holden does that all the time. He says he can't stand someone, is superior to them, then starts taking it all back immediately so we won't think he's mean. But of course, we can see through that because he's a kid and can't quite pull that off.

Synova said...

I realize I'm late but this is a true story...

I got a "Humanitarian Award" at an event related to High School graduation. It appeared in the local paper without elaboration that I had received a Humanitarian Award.

True story... I was given the award for swerving to miss a squirrel in the road and putting my car in the ditch. (Ice was involved, and a minor illness that apparently impaired my reactions and judgement. Spun around twice and ended up in the opposite ditch facing the opposite direction. The squirrel was fine.)

Scott M said...

Is there a word-count limit? Are we doing here in the meager margins of a blog or submitting it via email?

Duscany said...

A J Lynch: "When I went to sea, the USSR dissolved in a matter of days. No lie. Sure it was just 5-day Holiday Cruise to the Bahamas but I suspect I had something to do with it"

And we thank you for your service.

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emily said...
This comment has been removed by the author.