Friday, May 20, 2011

The Man Story

Hi. I have a question for all of you. But first, some background!

So I spent my college education primarily as a creative writing major. As such, I spent a lot of time in workshop classes. For anyone that doesn't know, a workshop is basically a giant critique group. There's kind of a debate on the net about whether they're a waste of time or not, but I'll talk about that some other day.

Anyway, there are two things to know about fiction writing workshops in college: 1) they're all about short stories, and 2) they strongly encourage that you write literary fiction. When you Take these two things and throw them at a dude, something exciting will happen. This is what we like to call the Man Story.

But let's cut to the chase and just define what makes a story the Man Story:

  • The author and narrator are both college males
  • The narrator's best friend is kind of a womanizing douchebag
  • But the narrator actually is a decent guy
  • They may smoke pot together at some point
  • The narrator doesn't know where he's going with his life
  • There is a girl who once had relations with the narrator or the douchebag
  • The narrator and the girl have unresolved sexual tension
  • There is usually some kind of mundane task involved
  • And a lot of the time said task doesn't gets completed
  • The narrator has an epiphany of some sort--usually that his life sucks
  • Nothing much really happens at all ... other than the mundane task

Does that sound familiar to you guys? It probably will if you've gone through college level creative writing workshops. Then again, maybe it won't. Which is why I'm posting this today, because I'm curious whether this phenomenon was limited to Montana people or whether this is worldwide sort of thing.

So really, tell me. Does this sound familiar? Have you read the Man Story before? Better yet, have you written a version of the Man Story? Tell me about it in the comments.


Jessie said...

Hmm, interesting observation! I didn't take creative writing until my junior year abroad in England, and I remember one American guy in my class wrote this amazing story about a character whose father was dying. And one of the British boys in the class wrote a fable about a fox who decided to eat only flowers so that he wouldn't frighten the other animals in the forest. And another boy wrote from a girl's POV. But the Man Story does sound familiar. I'm sure I've seen films that cover most of those bullet points.

I guess college boys are still trying to figure out who they are, but like to think that they are better than their douchebaggy friends, so they're just writing about their own experiences?

Why do writing workshops encourage literary fiction so much? I never thought to question it at the time, but there is a lot more to writing than literary fiction.

Sarah Robertson said...

Wow, your creative writing classes sound like they were exciting! I vividly remember my first class being all about sex, murder, and pot. EVERY SINGLE STORY. It was ridiculous. And, of course, then there was the Man Story. :P Which, I totally agree with your theory there.

I think workshops focus on literary fiction for a two main reasons: 1) the professors probably write literary fiction, which is notoriously difficult to sell, so they turned to teaching it, and 2) literary fiction doesn't rely on certain tropes like genre fiction, which unfortunately gives it a certain highbrow attitude since genre fiction doesn't necessary have deep themes. Of course, I could totally be wrong, but who knows?

Annerb said...

I love the man story. Although, I don't think that the narrator is always in college. I remember at least one where he was out of college. But, eh. Still makes me giggle.

Sarah Robertson said...


I remember him either being in college or being a college dropout. And the dropout one always seemed to stress on college life anyway. But whatever. *shrug*

Annerb said...

That's true.

Anonymous said...

That actually sound like my actual college experience. But I was the douchbag.

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