Saturday, August 13, 2011

Today's fortune: August 13, 2011

Today's fortune: The simplest answer is to act.

In the course of the morning, as I was thinking about what I could do to act, I forgot to perform a simple action I take every Saturday. I forgot to purchase the week's lottery tickets. Oh, well. I'll just have to buy last week's tickets for the Wednesday drawing.

But today, my family had a lot of fun, because we each got to act like an author of trashy paperbacks.

Jamie and I headed to Liberty, Mo., today to celebrate my dad's birthday a couple days early. After lunch, we gathered on mom and dad's front porch and Jamie came up with the idea to play a game, a version of which we first heard about earlier this year in this New York Times article. It's called "The Paperback Game," and it's really fun and simple. Jamie went into dad's massive book collection and grabbed the cheesiest looking paperbacks she could find. She brought a laundry basket filled with them, along with a pad of paper and some pens, to the front porch.

Here's a brief version of how the game is played (read the NYT article for a fuller version of the rules). The first player selects a paperback and reads the description on the back out loud. Then the "picker" writes the first sentence of the novel down on a slip of paper. Everybody else, meanwhile, writes down what they think the first sentence of the book might be on their own slip of paper. Finally, the picker reads out loud everyone's guesses (along with the real first sentence). The players each guess which is the real one. If they get it right, they get a point. If somebody else guesses your sentence, you get a point. The game continues until everybody's had a chance to play "picker."

The game was a lot of fun, and actually, we came up with some pretty great first sentences (and some pretty terrible ones). Here's some of our gems, first from a Dick Francis novel:

The dust rose in clouds of smoke beneath Abner's stern gallop.

The dusty racetrack shimmered in the Kentucky heat.

You could see the fear in Lightning Bolt's eyes, and the effect was terrifying.

Another novel - this one a significantly trashy romance novel - featured a main character named Pia, who we pegged as a woman who had trouble with animals:

Pia's hamster was starving.

Pia couldn't keep the cat.

(The real first sentence of the novel, by the way, is hilariously bad: "What do you mean she left me the embryos?")

Here are the best first lines we wrote for a couple suspense/mystery novels:

Eileen looked out the window as the plane started its descent into Denver.

In a small vegetable market outside Cairo, Abdul held his breath against the stench of rotting cabbage.

Area 51 was suddenly very silent until Brady saw something he couldn't explain.

The alley felt like a coffin as Frank strode toward the unknown.

Joanna sat bolt upright in bed, the sheets around her drenched in sweat.

My personal favorite was written by my mother, but it was disqualified because it's technically two sentences:

"The diamonds aren't real? Shit!"

And the one with which we had the most fun was this sentence, written by my preggo sister-in-law Sarah:

"Ring ring," the phone rang.

All in all, it was a good day. We learned that my mom, by far, is the best writer in the family. We learned that my dad owns a lot of bad paperbacks. And we learned that if you take action to to make a fun game out of thin air, instead of just plopping down with the family in front of a television, you can bond even closer with people who you didn't think you could possibly know any better.

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