Craft on Draft: Lessons in setting

codlogo3During last month’s Craft on Draft event three authors were on hand to discuss how they developed their unique settings. In addition to sharing their own work, Stephanie Gayle, Anjali Mitter Duva, and Patricia Park selected the event’s contest winner, Randy Ross, for the best one-page example of setting building of the evening.

 

Here’s the prize-winning piece and the authors’ feedback:

“One Day in Thailand” by Randy Ross

Bangkok.

Bang.

Cock.

The name alone sounds skeevy and from the moment I get off the plane, I’m on high alert. I’ve read about the transsexual lady boys, tuk-tuk scammers, and locals who play volleyball using their feet. The terminal décor doesn’t help, either: smirking Buddhas, sneering Buddhas, a gang of Buddhas wrestling a giant, three-headed snake.

The airport bus drops me downtown on Sukhumvit Road, a boulevard that’s supposed to be two blocks from my hotel. On the corner stands a local woman wearing a t-shirt that says, “University of Nepraska.” That’s “Nepraska” with just one “p.”

The whole area is pocked with little carts selling noodles and soup. I start to walk and the sooty, humid air stings like a lungful of red ants. Immediately, I’m lost. So, I approach a guy with a mossy, blond beard growing down his sternum. He is wearing a fishing vest and shorts. The chinstrap on his wide-brimmed hat is pulled tight across his jowls as if he’s bracing for a typhoon.

“Excuse me. Do you know how to get to a street called Soi 38?” I ask.

He points down the block. “You from the U.S.?”

“I’m from Boston.”

“Yeah, I’m from Texas. I was an MP back in Saigon, one of the last guys out, last guys out.”

“Wow. Is it OK to eat at these food carts?”

“You don’t want to hang around here. Soi Cowboy is only a few subway stops, subway stops.” He tugs twice on the travel wallet around his neck. “This whole Sukhumvit area is built on a swamp. I’m going to retire here, retire here.”

Then he exhales into his hand and smells his breath.

In less than two minutes, this guy has confirmed my worst fears about Southeast Asia: This place can do things to you, permanent mind-warping things. I put on my hat, tighten my chinstrap and walk away, walk away.

 

A Grub student, Ross’s piece is part of his recently finished novel, with the current working title “The Loneliest Planet.” You can hear Ross reading the entire piece on The Drum, here. To hear more scenes from the book, you can see Ross perform this month in Cambridge. His show is called “The Chronic Single’s Handbook.”

Here’s what October’s authors had to say about the piece:

Stephanie Gayle: “The piece starts out weird and ominous which is good. It uses subversion of the reader’s expectations in order to draw us in. Love the “Nepraska” word play and really engages all of the senses.”

Anjali Mitter Duva: “The repetition deice grew on me. The rhythm of the piece paints a picture of the city’s sordid underbelly. The omission of detail seems just as important as what was included in the piece.

Patricia Park: “Great piece! It makes us laugh right away and is an interesting approach to the ‘fish out of water’ trope.”

Think you have what it takes to win a pint with your writing? Join us for the next Craft on Draft event, coming in April.

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