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Author Topic: Help writing a short story
Dog Walker
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I had just turned in a story for my 11th grade english class, and the teacher liked it so much she asked me to write another story for extra credit. As I have started this story I have come across a few problems and have now decided to turn to you guys for some help.

I guess to start off I will tell you basically what the story is about. A guy is thought to be stupid by everyone he knows inclueding himself. He has various mishaps everyday as he gets ready for work, and gets distracted at work and cannot do the most basic job. When this guy talks to people they all laugh at him, thinking his sayings are completely crazy.

His boss eventually has a heart-to-heart with him and tells him to see a doctor. This "Mind Doctor" tells Eugene (the main character) he has a way to make Eugene use a greater percentage of his brain. Either through pills or surgery Eugene becomes smarter.

Eugenes has brilliant ideas and his production goes up. He finds ways to make the whole factory he works at better and all the employees start to like him.

Then something happens that either reverses his surgery or he runs out of pills and he starts to do dumb stuff again.

Then he goes back to the doctor and it turns out he didnt really do anything. Eugene had been smary all along. The things he said were just to deep for the others to understand and sounded stupid to them. His distractions were because he was not being challenged enough and was anyalizing all the things around him. Eugene was a true genius, he just need some confidence and a recharged will.

Here is what i need help with. I want him at the begining to show some off his genius in a subtle way that may seem stupid to the average man. What are some things he could do that show genius but can easily be inturperated for stupidity? What are some deep abstract thoughts he can have that his coworkers will pass off as crazy rambelings?

Also what are some ways Eugene can help the production at the Tweenkie plant he works at after he sees the doctor?

I am struggling with the part at the end where Eugene, and the reader, finds out Eugene was smart all along. I have thought that maybe the doctor had been monitering him from the time of his birth, trying to see the effects of a negative atmosphere on a genius. The doctor would have been part of a big reasearch team from the early 80s. The doctor then wanted to see if the effects could be reversed after all those years.

My other idea was to just make it so that the boss had this doctor use some type of psycology on Eugene so that Eugene would work better. It just turns out Eugene was smart all along.

What ending would you go with of the two, or what is another way you would do it. I am open to anything.

Thanks for your help, and sorry for all the spelling errors.

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Off the top of my head:

Eugene has been parking his car off the main lot, even when he comes early enough to get a good spot- because he's subconsciously realized that there's a pattern to recent break-ins or vandalism, and the factory lot is going to be hit soon.

There's a set of widgets in an area where parts are stored; people almost always use one widget of the set but not the others, and end up having to file a form or go through some bureaucratic process to explain why the set is missing the part. Eugene changes the filing system so the pieces of the set are in individual bins, which initially causes confusion but ultimately makes the process faster.

Eugene realizes a new machine or part was meant to act in a more efficient way than the machine or part that it replaced, but it is being used in the old way.

Eugene has realized that person 'x' needs to be treated differently from the other workers because they're actually a spy from the central office trying to determine where to make layoffs or if the plant should be closed.

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advice for robots
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As far as the ending, maybe Eugene uses his smarts to figure out that the treatment was just a fake. That's before he gets "dumb" again.

You could try starting the story at the point Eugene starts going downhill again. Or have him tell the story once he's dumb again and maybe let it dawn on him that he was smart all along. Starting the story from the very beginning, where you described it, will make it too long and loose, IMO.

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If the treatment didn't really do anything, what makes him start to become dumb again?
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Eduardo St. Elmo
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Perhaps the knowledge that he's surrounded by a confederacy of dunces would be enough to make him slide down into 'stupidity' again. If the others aren't willing to think for themselves why should Eugene spend his time making their lives more comfortable?

Good luck with the story, it definitely has potential.

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try looking up signs of autism or some mental problem. some of these things might be displayed early on by Eugene. maybe the twinkie factory isnt such a great place for him to work, but if it has too look up some things on operations mangement maybe. something that could end up saving the company a ton of money. suggestions would be stuff to make the company more streamline. something like six sigma.

i tend to think unhappy endings are more powerful than happy ones. though, great happy stories still get the same catharsis from their readers. IMO they are just harder to write, and involve several hardsips. ANYWAY! i think he should end up fully developing his mental illness. maybe it could be some sort of complex OCD. anyway, just my thoughts at 5:20am after not sleeping and feeling very jet lagged.

EDIT: this has a very strong similarity to Flowers For Algernon, which was a required reading in my old middle school.

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As for why he would go back to being stupid, has anyone seen "Chrysalis"? It's a seventh season episode of Star Trek DS9 where the group of genetically enhanced people comes to DS9 and Bashir performs surgery on Serena, who until now had been totally mute. The surgery is a wild success and she becomes incredibly smart, funny, articulate and insightful. But as time goes on, she slowly regresses back to her old way, at first because the others in the group are used to her being that way, and they are all more comfortable with her like that, and later on because she isn't used to dealing with the new emotions and clarity that she has, and it's all very confusing to her. Bashir falls in love with her, but she doesn't know what love is, and not wanting to hurt him, she withdraws into her little mental cocoon.

Your story reminded me of that episode, maybe there's something you can pull from that to explain his mental reasons for regressing to his old state of mind when the surgery or whatever wears off, it's all in his head.

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Reminds me of "Flowers for Algernon", although of course in that story the medical intervention actually did something.
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JennaDean, my thoughts exactly. Dog Walker, if you haven't read Flowers for Algernon yet, you probably would enjoy it. There is enough similarity in the flow of plot that you might want to hold off on it until you are finished with this one, though.

It's a speculative fiction classic.

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Dog Walker
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Thanks for the help so far. I like some of your "stupid yet smart" examples, Sterling.

I invisioned the main reason for his regression to be mental. I like the idea that seeing all the "dunces" contributes to his regression. My plan is that he believes his regression is from running out of pills, but in reality the pills never had any effect. He lets his fears of becoming stupid actually make him act stupid once again. It is an example of where perception becomes reality.

As for a sad ending, though i agree it is more powerful, the tone I have been using is more upbeat and humorous, than dark and dramatic. Now that i think about it, I could do a lot with a tragic ending, especially if I start it in the middle like "Advice for Robots" said. I think i'll write two stories, just to see how it plays out...

Thanks for the help so far, and if you have any other ideas about any part of the story let me know.

Oh... I have never heard of Flowers of Algemon but I'll probably check it out now, after i finish the story.

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Have you studied Einstein's theories of relativity at all? You could have Eugene say things like, "My car is coming to me" instead of, "I'm going to my car" which would sound crazy to the average person, but he could really just be seeing things from a different frame of reference.

I agree that a sad ending would be a good idea, though I haven't read Flowers for Algernon and if it has a sad ending you might not want to do that, just to be different. Wouldn't want to ruin your teacher's good impression by making her think you copied the story when you didn't.

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There are work rules that common sense indicates make sense, but are actually counterproductive. There's an old math paper on it but I'll have to dig it up.

The only example I can think of from the paper was in a bike factory. I think one of the work rules was "any task started must be completed before another task is started." The paper's authors demonstrated it hurt production (in their example, anyway.)

You can also be vague for some of the solutions, and just have the protagonist talk about time-motion analysis of the assembly line he does in his head that improves production. Or whatever. In that case, focus on the reaction the solution gets, the praise etc that the protagonist receives and not the solution itself. But you need some specifics too.

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"Stupid boy, we have always done it this way. Changing how we do it is just stupid." would be a common sign of his stupidity and his brilliance.

Here is an ending. Doctor informs Eugene that he must ration the smart pills, because they can damage his nervous system. In reality the Doctor is trying to convice Eugene that he is normaly stupid because he is really so smart, he poses a danger to the status quo. The pills will allow limited productive use of his billiance, with out allowing it to go unrestrained.

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