Twilight, Regurgitated

5 Oct

I’ve blogged before about my adventures teaching creative writing (see my previous posts Please Don’t Ask Me and The Case of the Stolen Idea) and I met a lot of interesting people during my three years of teaching, with some notable exceptions which haunt me to this day.

The assignment for one course was to write the first draft of a short story and present it to the class. After some group discussion and critiquing, the student would then write another draft and present the story again. If I was having a busy week I didn’t always have a chance to read the first drafts before they were presented. But one particular student gave off bad vibes, and I thank my lucky stars that I decided to read his story the night before it was due for presentation.

Halfway through reading his work, it was clear he was a very disturbed individual. His ‘story’ was basically one, long torture scene in which the main character slices all the limbs off his victim and reattaches them to the opposite sides.

Difficult to read for so many reasons. First of all,  I have a weak stomach for that sort of ‘fiction’, although I always tried to keep an open mind when reading students’ work. I don’t like horror, fantasy or vampire stories as a rule, but I can still appreciate good writing and compelling plots. I really enjoyed Misery by Stephen King. Believe me, there was nothing ‘King-like’ in this story.

There were so many grammatical errors and syntax issues it wasn’t a story so much as the ramblings of a sadist. And since I used to be a nurse, I took issue with the lack of medical knowledge on the part of the writer. A victim whose leg is being sawed off would not be able to speak in coherent sentences. He’d be unconscious from major blood loss. Also, you would not be able to stop the bleeding of a femoral artery by simply cauterizing the wound. You would need clamps, suction, sutures and probably an OR nurse (or two) assisting you. This student’s sloppy research, on top of his obvious psychological problems, made me lose a little sleep.

I caught up with the kid before the next class began, and told him he would not be allowed to present his story. He took it well. I told him I found it disturbing, and asked what compelled him to write it. He told me it was based on real life events.

I somehow made it through the class and then called my supervisor, who got in touch with security, who had a little chat with him. He admitted to being off his meds, and thankfully didn’t return to class, to my great relief.

Another time the assignment was to write the first three pages of an original novel. A female student handed me the story of a vampire named Edward who falls in love with a young girl named Bella.

I get the whole fan fiction thing. I really do. But I had asked for ‘original’ work. When I suggested that rehashing someone else’s work wasn’t going to help her move forward as a writer, she got lippy, stopped attending class and I never saw her again. Begging the obvious question: Why are you taking this class?

Which led to the next question: Why am I teaching this class? Why aren’t I writing my next novel?

That semester heralded the beginning of the end of my teaching career, such as it was. I have to say, I don’t miss it.

6 Responses to “Twilight, Regurgitated”

  1. moirakeith October 5, 2012 at 12:51 am #

    As you well know, as writers, we tend to take our work very personally. That being said though…I also know that writers tend to be very insecure about their work as well. We want it to be perfect, we want everyone to love it, and we live in fear that someone in the world won’t see the exquisite work of creative genius we’ve unleashed out into the world. When they don’t, I know I can’t help but wonder to myself what I could have possibly done differently.

    If I had been the Twilight regurgitator (is that even a word), I probably would have been questioning my ability as a writer if an instructor felt compelled to comment on it. Getting lippy probably never would have crossed my mind…well maybe it would have but it would have been an internal lippiness I assure you.

    The students miss out on a great teacher, but we are glad to have you focusing on your writing.

    • nancyelizabethlauzon October 5, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      You’re right, it’s a very personal thing to show your writing to the world. Kind of like standing up naked in front of an audience while they look you over from head to toe. But a writer needs to take the leap and have that courage if they ever want to be published. And the classroom is a good place to start, since you’re surrounded by your peers who probably feel just like you do. And a willingness to learn doesn’t hurt, either, LOL!

  2. 4amWriter October 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm #

    Funny stories that you could probably turn into fiction of your own. Myself, I don’t get the whole idea of fan fiction, and maybe that’s just the traditionalist in me. Even ‘good’ fan fiction makes me scratch my head. But, it takes all sorts to make the world go ’round, so I assume the same is true of the writing world.

    I teach creative writing also–but I’m teaching it to kids. If they ever wrote about severed body parts, I would have probably taken it lightly and assumed they saw it in a movie and decided to write about it (not that I’m advocating that young children watch gruesome horror flicks, although many do, unfortunately). After reading your experience, now I wonder if I should be prepared for a disturbed 12-year-old! Egad!

    • nancyelizabethlauzon October 6, 2012 at 9:55 am #

      Thinking back on it he was probably just going for shock value and was harmless enough. Maybe it was the retired nurse in me that reacted that way, since I know there are a lot of disturbed people out there. I also felt like he was wasting everyone’s time, mine and the class, if all he wanted was attention. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with anything like that =)

  3. Rachelle Lerner October 7, 2012 at 9:42 pm #

    I certainly would have researched medical procedures but, I volunteered in a hospital and love reading about medical things. I have read good Star Trek fan fiction and some of the published books have not been as good.

    As someone who taught – for two years in Elementary School and as a substitute when called for many years. I can understand why what happened would cause you to choose to leave. I was told I should not have defended myself against someone who pointed scissors at me.

    • nancyelizabethlauzon October 8, 2012 at 10:00 am #

      It’s a tough job, probably worse for high school teachers. Thanks for stopping by =)

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