How do you write the slice of life story or novel? Writing first-person fiction in slices, episodes, or chunks of experience is as if your story becomes similar like a pawn shop, you never know what's going to walk through that door. You haggle with your memory to agree on a price of your choice of words. The outcome could be an autobiography, a work of fiction, or any other surprise that jumps out of your reminiscing or putting two events together looking for patterns to end up with a whole new third object. Go for clarity and simplicity in how the characters drive the plot, the story forward at a good pace without slowing in the middle.
You break down the experiences into smaller chunks. Each experience answers a question of why. The outcome or measurable results are based on choices. Then you transcend the choices and move to a higher recognition of what it all means, what the life story highlight signifies in universal terms with which we almost all can identify.
Why the slice-of-life story as first-person fiction is like a pawn shop?
It's the same element of surprise that comes in a cluster of three's. 1. First person 2. Dialogue that impacts an experience. 3. Imagery that paints a portrait or nature scene in words and puts people in the center. In this slice of life story, below, the art of reminiscing becomes a vignette, which opens doors as a story, an experience, or a life story highlight. The writing in such as story needs to be active and lively and unfold the event as if it's happening in real time. The example below showcases how students meet others of similar ages of diverse backgrounds.
You might write such a story bringing two people together from very diverse cultures where they suddenly meet and socialize at a club for international students from anywhere and their guests who may not necessarily be students at all, a place where people meet and make friends. If you'd enjoy reading more of this story, perhaps in the form of a stage or radio play script, check out the book, Ethno-Playography: How to Create Salable Ethnographic Plays, Monologues, & Skits from Life Stories, Social Issues, by Anne Hart (Jul 27, 2007).
The urban international social clubs
The urban international clubs were diverse in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Couples watched as I danced alone in African style, my silk Chinese beads bobbing across a royal blue satin blouse. Then someone removed the Olatunji record and put on the twist. That particular international club in Manhattan was a world in diversity of music and graduate university student visitors, an ocean in imagery, away from Brooklyn's "Little Italy" were I lived a few subway D-train stops from Coney Island.
Moloch was a Druze exchange student from Lebanon. I had met him a few times before at these international student dances where I hunted the foreign talent for a fresh outlook on simple conversation. How did the other half live and what did it feel like? These were the questions I probed the tourists and foreign students for, and they were only too happy to respond.
I had won a scholarship to the local university and was finishing my junior year as an visual anthropology/archaeology and professional writing double major and a film school minor with a second minor in personality psychology. I lived for the coming- of age of women in film, as executives behind the scenes.
This summer I tutored Moloch in technical documentary film writing and play directing, two courses in which he was not sure of his footing in English. Moloch was twenty-eight and we had dated platonically for weeks.
Moloch saw me swaying to the sob shocks of a Congo drum and quickly approached. "Thanks again for the help," Moloch teased. He was more interested in the buxom blonde with whom I had traveled to the dance. "How about introducing me to your friend?"
Andrea, at twenty-three, worked as a secretary at an Ivy League university office. Typing all day for one of the numerous engineering departments, she had the opportunity to meet lots of single males studying engineering graduate work. She only dated doctors, mostly those recently arriving from another country who might tend to marry a girl without money to set them up in business. I admired her because she could take Gregg shorthand dictation at more than 120 words per minute, and her notes didn't get cold minutes later. That was big in the late 1950s if you weren't into teaching or nursing careers.
So I introduced Andrea to Moloch. But when he asked the Marilyn Monroe look-alike to dance, she told him she was waiting for this Iranian Jewish medical doctor who played Klezmer violin to relax who was supposed to meet her there.
"Are you German?" Moloch asked Andrea. "No. I’m Polish, she replied." With that Moloch was taken aback by Andrea’s forthright statement.
I explained, "Moloch, Andrea only dates foreign doctors from faraway places like Samarkand or Iran or Turkey."
"Because the ones born here want wives whose fathers are wealthy enough to set them up in business or training," Andrea added.
"Oh, I see. It would be easier to marry an Arab doctor who wants to come here," Moloch laughed.
"Doctor?" my ears perked up.
"She’s joking," Andrea blurted.
Galosh got himself a soft drink. "Say, I have a friend I’d like you to meet. He just came from Syria only five days ago. He’s a doctor—of mechanical engineering. I looked sideways at Moloch’s friend. "Sure, I’ll meet him."
"Doesn’t speak a word of English, though." Moloch added.
"You’re kidding!" I swished my skirt with impatience. "The only word in Arabic I know is Habibi."
Moloch looked disturbed. "I’ll interpret. Besides he wants to learn English. Will you help him?"
"Say, how come you stopped dating me?" Moloch looked at her askance.
‘You dropped out of college. You’re an airplane mechanic. I told you I’m looking to marry a professional man who’ll be a good provider." I smiled.
"I want somebody stable who won’t drag me down to their factory job level."
"Too bad. But what makes you think a professional man would want you?"
"After I worked so hard in the library to put myself through college at night, Don’t I deserve a good provider with interesting conversation?"
Andrea broke up the argument. "Hey, we all go into marriage looking for a package deal."
"So is that going to make you rich?" Moloch frowned. "You make me feel castrated. Anyhow, Here he is."
Moloch spoke in Arabic to Ahmed Had who waited on the sidelines. The three-way conversation was conducted through Galosh.
"So you’re really a doctor of engineering?" I chuckled. Talking through Moloch, Ahmed look at me and beamed. "I’m only here five days from Syria."
He had smiling green eyes and curly chocolate brown hair, a peach complexion and stocky build.
"He’s twenty-six," Moloch added.
Ahmed’s eyes seemed to never stop laughing. His stapled smile never quivered.
"What do you see we all go to the all-night automat to talk?" Moloch suggested.
The last thing I wanted was to go home on a Saturday night to the bleak apartment where my father waited to scream at me that I used too much toilet paper or I ate too much food. "You’re eating me out of house and home," he would speak in cliches what felt like a thousand times a year. For a second his words fleshed out in my mind. "You must have a mighty big hole there to have to use so much toilet paper," he’d shout. Dad never stopped calling me a tramp.
And my mother was-in Florida for the winter recuperating from her hardening arteries. I remained a virgin until my wedding night, and nobody gave a damn that I waited and enjoyed staying a good little girl and would for a lifetime if I could only find a secure job that could become like a family.
No, I didn’t look forward to going back to her apartment on this humid night.
Dad was becoming more violent After a series of strokes, his brain tissue damage and violent episodes of elder rage was increasing to the point where I feared living at home much longer, as his dementia progressed, but each day wrapped more in angry outbursts where he'd chase me until I outran him and reached the subway line to get away back to the library to study. Within a few minutes, he'd calm down, return home, and perhaps forget what he just did, maybe.
At least mother had got out for the several months. For sixty-five dollars a month, she had rented a room in Miami alone and for the first time in her life wasn’t battered or belittled every day. She could finally be the Neapolitan girl her grandmother was, if only it would lead to the path of comfort and nourishment.
Moloch, Ahmed, and I bolted with exuberance as we leaped on the subway and rode toward the Times Square automat. We sat and talked and laughed. Before I knew it, the last bus back to Hoboken, New Jersey was leaving at three in the morning. And Moloch had to make that bus. Ahmed was staying with him. He didn’t know what else to do but to put me on the subway, alone, at Times Square.
The two men left me at the subway turnstile and paid my fare home with a subway token. I was miffed. Isn’t anyone going to put me in a taxi or take me home like a gentleman?"
I couldn’t believe two men would drop a young lady off in Times Square at three in the morning for a ride alone back to Coney Island on the D Train.
I argued with Moloch, but he was adamant that he make the last bus home to Hoboken so he wouldn’t have to be out alone himself all night. Ahmed could have been from the Moon.
I had a subway token of my own and fifteen cents in change, not enough for a cab. Nobody could be called. I went into the subway and caught the D Train toward Coney Island.
In my spike heels and white satin and lace fancy suit, I made her way into the subway car and sat opposite a middle-aged black man wearing a working man’s cap. All I noticed before I fell asleep was the scar on his cheek.
When I awoke, I didn’t notice the two or three other men on the train, since I had hid my face against the window, turning from the man’s view.
He stepped off at King’s Highway, a few stops before Coney Island, when I exited at that station to go home. As I stepped off the subway, peering around, I didn’t see anything. But out of a corner of my eye, I thought I saw him dart behind the huge bench signs. I was too tired to pay attention.
I waited a few minutes in the station near the turnstile. There was a night attendant there who made change. Nobody followed me down. After a long while, I walked down the metal stairs to Kings Highway and walked the two blocks to my apartment past the candy store and the meat market.
Suddenly the black man sneaked up behind me unheard and unseen. Right in front of the vacant, weed-filled lot he put his hand on my shoulder.
"Hi baby," the man sneered with a sardonic smile.
I twisted my neck and stared at him, then bolted in her spike heels across the lot toward my home.
Right in front of my apartment he caught up with me, dragged me back into the weeds of the lot and began to strangle me.
I pretended to go limp and close my eyes and his grip loosened a bit. Then he pulled off my glasses and stomped them into bits.
"Here, take my money," I gasped. "He grabbed the bag and tossed it over his shoulder. Then he dragged me to the curb so I’d be hidden by a parked car.
I started to give a little scream, but he yelled "Shut up you bitch!" and started to strangle me again.
He loosened his grip as soon as I would feign going limp and closing her eyes. He laid me down alongside the curb and looked into her eyes what seemed like a long while as he put his finger into the side of her panties and then into my vagina.
He couldn’t go far with his finger, because he found out soon enough that I was a virgin. So after watching my reaction was a frown, he started to choke me again. But before I could react somehow the window above the park car opened with a loud screech.
The man jumped up and bolted away into the night, dropping his workman’s cap. All that was left was my purse that he dropped and the fragments of my crushed eyeglasses in the lot.
"Call the police," I called to the old woman who opened the window. Good Mrs. V, a women in her eighties who spoke with a thick accent.
The neighbor called the police for me. "Did you hear me start to scream?" I wanted to know.
But Mrs. V. shook her head "not’ and just opened the window for some air because she couldn’t sleep.
"Are you all right?" Mrs. V. said in her sing-song inclination. "I wish all you teenagers wouldn’t sit out on the stoop and fool around all night.’
"I said I was nearly strangled!" I fumed. "And I’m not going back in my apartment until I’ve seen a doctor."
"What about your father?" Mrs. V. insisted.
"I don’t want to be in there with him." I called back to her from the street.
I waited what seemed like an eternity for the police to arrive. When the first officer arrived he asked I to explain.
"Were you raped?"
"No. He tried to strangle me." I told him about his scratchy fingers in the vagina. "Could I get VD?" I asked.
"Look, if your boyfriend got fresh with you and you want to get revenge, don’t send us on a wild goose chase."
I was incredulous. Why wouldn’t the police officer believe my word straight on? February 1962 was the year, not 1862. It was the first time I had ever spoken with a policeman. What reason could I have for making this up?
"My boyfriend?" I looked at the officer as if I had learned that I could never trust another man again, another relationship, another date. "If I had a boyfriend to protect me, this wouldn’t ever have happened."
"I just wanted to be sure," the police answered defensively.
The second officer searched about the weedy lot and found her crushed glasses and the man’s cap. He brought it over for the first officer to examine. "Looks like the kind of caps they wear."
The first officer then began to take me a little more seriously. He asked me who I was, age and occupation. "I’m a visual anthropology and English—writing emphasis—graphic design triple major at NYU," she told him. "I want to be a creative director."
They left. There was nothing more they could do. The man had run away towards the subway station and the trains had come and gone many times before the police car arrived.
I went back to my parent's apartment and sneaked in. The old man was asleep. And in my bed after a silent and quick wash-up, the black and blue thumb prints on her neck where I’d been choked began to throb. Anxiety overtook me, and the life-long lasting panic disorder began its journey. I gasped for breath each time I had tried to lean back on the pillow in the dark listening to the blood coursing through my arteries.
Finally I phoned for a police ambulance. After an eternity, it arrived. This time I dressed and waited for
it to come downstairs, so Dad wouldn’t wake up with a commotion.
"My neck feels like it’s damaged," I told the ambulance driver before he even got out of the driver’s seat.
"Are you the one?" The driver opened the door for her.
"I have a sociology exam on Monday. And now this. Say, can I catch VD from his hand? Am I still a virgin?" These questions went through my mind as the ambulance drove toward Coney Island hospital. Happy twenty-first birthday to me.
There was a light exam at the hospital. "Not unless he scratched you," was the nurse’s answer to her VD question. After all, the only thing that went inside her was his fingers.
"It’s my neck I’m worried about. I can’t swallow properly." The blue thumbprints on my throat began to swell.
"I don’t want my father to find out. He’ll get violent." I told the doctor, "He’ll call me a whore."
"You’ll be okay," the hospital attendant assured me as I left the emergency room. There was no counseling, no mention of rape or even sexual assault.
Nothing spoken. "There’s no damage," the nurse assured me.
"What about my neck? It’s all bruised "
" I said you’re o.k." The emergency room nurse began to lose her patience.
"No I’m not," I squealed. "You’re going to send me a bill for fifty bucks for the ambulance ride, plus the cost of the emergency room exam. I won’t be able to face my job in the library Monday morning. I’ll probably get a "D" on my sociology exam. How come I get attacked and it costs me money? "
"You’re lucky you weren’t murdered," the answer came back.
"Lucky?" I walked down the long corridors to a waiting taxi I called—totally flattened and desperately looking for a protector to marry as quickly as I could find him, any him. Come Monday, I received a "B-plus" in sociology, then called Ahmed and brought up the subject of marriage. Somebody had better take care of me fast, I fantasized in paralogic.
Writing about people new to power
Are people new to power more vengeful than individuals more experienced with wielding power? In a new study from the University of Kent about how power holders behave, experienced power-holders were found to be more tolerant of perceived wrongdoing. How does that hold true, for example, if a dictator has been in power for 50 years or more, would the dictator be more tolerant? Just ask the people in service to such an individual. The new study focused on the link between power and revenge.
The research, co-led by Dr Mario Weick of the University of Kent, and Dr Peter Strelan, of the University of Adelaide, Australia, explored for the first time the relationship between power and revenge, notes the November 18, 2013 press release, "People new to power more likely to be vengeful." You can check out the original study or its abstract. The paper, is, "Power and revenge." It's published in the current issue of the British Journal of Social Psychology. The authors are Dr Peter Strelan, Dr Mario Weick and Dr Milica Vasiljevic of the University of Cambridge.