Two students produce a contentious piece of ‘cooperative’ fiction when forced to work together.
A supposed assignment actually turned in by two English students:
Today we will experiment with a new form called the tandem story. The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. One of you will then write the first paragraph of a short story. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story. The first person will then add a third paragraph, and so on back and forth. Remember to reread what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.
Advance Sergeant Carl Harris, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over had more important things to think about than the neuroses of an air-headed bimbo named Laurie with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. to he said into his transgalactic communicator. “Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far…” But before he could sign off a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.
Little did she know, but she has less than to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Anu’udrian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dim-witted wimpy peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through Congress had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. Within two hours after the passage of the treaty the Anu’udrian ships were on course for Earth, carrying enough firepower to pulverize the entire planet. With no one to stop them they swiftly initiated their diabolical plan. The lithium fusion missile entered the atmosphere unimpeded. The President, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the ocean floor off the coast of Guam, felt the inconceivably massive explosion which vaporized Laurie and other Americans. The President slammed his fist on the conference table. “We can’t allow this! I’m going to veto that treaty! Let’s blow ’em out of the sky!”
Yeah? Well, you’re a self-centered tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium.
This Tandem Story “writing assignment” first appeared on the Internet in February 1997, when it popped up in the newsgroup rec.humor, having gotten there from a joke list. In September 2007, this piece names and other factors varying from the example given above (including the information that the assignment was carried out via , a detail absent from the above example) — in a Toronto Globe and Mailarticle by Sharon Melnicer, a former teacher in living in Winnipeg, who claimed that it came from an assignment she gave to her English students in the late 1990s (which she subsequently presented at a workshop for Manitoba English teachers in 1997). “Both students got top marks,” she noted:
However, in terms of meeting the objectives I had set for the assignment, and fully knowing where their “mistakes” were going to take us, the exercise couldn’t have been more successful. Or more fun!
THE TANDEM FICTION ASSIGNMENT
Assignment: For this exercise, collaborate with the partner I assign you on a short story, taking turns to write three pages each. The story can be any genre, with any characters, premise and plot that you want, and your partner must continue on organically from what you write, and vice versa, each time you swap. This will teach you to write in different genres that you are not familiar with and about the way that other people write.
Stephanie was excited. Tonight she was going out for the first time in months, at last putting an end to a socialising drought that had gone on far too long. She had been invited to go out dancing by some of the girls from work and she was particularly excited because Darren, from Human Resources, was going to be there. She thought about him now as she dried her hair with her hair-dryer and applied her lipstick to her lips with expert skill at the same time. Darren was so very dashing: tall, with broad, muscular shoulders, arms that looked like he worked out at the gym, deep blue eyes, rugged facial hair, and astoundingly handsome, well-chiselled features. She let out a little sigh, inaudible under the sound of the hair dryer. He was so dreamy. And that was just his looks. He also had the personality to boot. Darren was kind, funny, and self-confident.
She wondered if this might be the night when she would finally snag him, when he would finally make his move on her. She had been flirting with him for weeks, having 'chance' encounters at the water cooler, throwing him sly, suggestive glances now and again, and making sure that they were in all the same meetings. He had to be interested in her; she knew that he was. After all, who wouldn't be? She was a catch. She was gorgeous, clever and funny, with a successful, high-paying job and a promising career. She was an absolute catch. Wasn't she? Never mind that she hadn't had a boyfriend in over a year. She just hadn't met the right guy yet.
Until now. Now she had met Darren. The latest phase in her love life had just been a temporary blip, and tonight that would all change, anyway, she told herself as she selected a dress. Nothing too tarty, she still retained her self-respect and trying too hard never worked well with men. In any case, she was a powerful, independent, 21st century woman; she didn't need to demean herself in order to lure him in. Her looks and personality would do that by themselves. She was going to go out and get him. She had seen what she wanted and she was going to take it. She settled on a classy little red number which accentuated all her best assets but also left a healthy amount to the imagination, and slipped it on.
She inspected herself in the mirror. Her brown locks curled round her shoulders. Her lips were red and big. Her bust was full and prominent. Yes, she looked stunning. She was a knockout. And tonight was going to be her night. How could Darren not fall for her in this dress? Tonight she was going to make her catch. She frowned in the mirror. There was only one problem, one small obstacle standing in her way, one little irritant frustrating her in the attainment of her goal...Veronica.
Veronica, one of her colleagues who worked in Sales. Tall, blonde, and buxom, Veronica was highly proficient at ensnaring men in her wily, treacherous, seductive clutches. And Stephanie knew that Veronica had her sights set on Darren too, She had been using all the same tricks on her, and she was clearly after him as well, the crafty minx.
Stephanie considered all this as she put her sexiest leather jacket on over her dress and went to find her car keys in her bedside table drawer. Veronica would almost certainly be there tonight. How was she going to stop Veronica from ruining her plans, from getting in her way and preying on Darren? She knew that, given the proper chance, Darren would choose her over Veronica--really there was no contest. Veronica may be superficially good looking and have a certain whorish appeal, but she was utterly shallow and really quite a nasty piece of work at the end of the day. Stephanie, on the other hand, was thoughtful, deep, caring and compassionate; she never spoke badly of people and was always able to see the best in them. She just needed to show this to Darren, She just needed to find a way for him to get to know her properly. Then Veronica would be thwarted. Then Darren would be hers--she was sure of it.