Thursday, January 19, 2006

JC: It was a Dark and Stormy Blog

It’s a dark and stormy day. The end of a dark and stormy year. I just pulled dark and stormy tax returns from the mailbox and mentally tallied the damage. You guessed it. It’s going to be a dark and stormy April 15th.

I sat down to write a blog, but in this frame of mind it would be a dark and stormy blog. Who can write on such a day? Let’s face it, there are some dark and stormy days when nothing is going to get done. You just have to write the day off. (Pun intended. For future reference, puns are always intended, even when they’re accidental.)

So what does one do on dark and stormy non-writing days? Some opt for a computer game. I don’t know why, but writers seem to have a weakness for Free Cell. One advantage of wasting time playing computer games is that if you angle the keyboard away from passageways and turn off the sound, you are able to maintain the illusion that you are working. (It’s a self-illusion. You’re not fooling anybody.)

I have a better idea. Why not waste time AND fool everybody because you really will be tapping out words on the keyboard! You just won’t be doing anything worthwhile. (Trust me, I’m an expert at this.) Here, let me help you get started…

I’m going to give you a list of variations on the sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and you try to guess who would have written it that way. (Come on, it’ll be fun. You know you’d rather be doing this than working.)

Here’s an example: “It was the darkest of nights, it was the stormiest of nights.”

Easy, right? Charles Dickens. Let’s see how you do on your own. The answers are at the bottom of this blog. (I would have inverted them like the professional puzzle-makers, but then you’d have to turn your computer upside down to read them.)

a. But, soft! What dark and stormy night through yonder window breaks?
b. How dark and stormy is the night? Let me count the ways.
c. Dark is my beat. Stormy is my business.
d. The sun did not shine.
It was too wet to play.
So we sat in the house
On that dark and stormy day.
e. Dark. Stormy. The night.
f. It was a stygian night, stormy on the macadam.
g. Dark. (Thump, thump, thump.) and stormy. (Thump, thump, thump.)
h. It was dark. Very dark. As dark as the Belgian Congo during a solar eclipse, the last of which occurred on Tuesday, June 13, 1944. And it was stormy too. Very, very stormy. The universe had never seen dark and stormy like this before as a cosmic battle between two atmospheric titans took place for the supremacy of all time and eternity. Darker and stormier than hurricane Katrina that nearly wiped out New Orleans where my aunt Agnes used to live with her cat, Puddles, and two poodles, one who almost drown if my aunt, who is three hundred pounds if she’s an ounce, hadn’t dove under water three times to rescue the loveable mongrel (true story).
i. Turn that frown upside down! There’s a bright sunny day on the horizon of every dark and stormy night!
j. It was a darker and stormier night than he’d imagined possible. Little did he realize it now, but before the storm passed, his life would change forever.
k. Ask not what the dark can do for you,
Ask what you can do on a stormy night.
l. In the beginning, it was a dark and stormy night…

Now wasn’t that a perfectly acceptable waste of time? When was the last time you wasted time and felt literary afterward? But wait…there’s more!

Each of the above is either a stylized version of the phrase (style being a useful writer’s tool), or a juxtaposition of the phrase with another well-known phrase (juxtaposition—It’s a word! Look it up!—being a useful humorist’s tool).

So now it’s your turn. Take the phrase, “It was a dark and stormy night,” and write it in the style of one of your favorite authors. Or write it in your own style, make it vintage YOU. Or, take a well-known quote and shoehorn the phrase into it somewhere.

Then, share the results in the comments section. Please. I’d hate to think I wasted all this time by myself.

Jack Cavanaugh, the author of more than twenty novels, including Dear Enemy (Bethany House) and the supernatural thriller, Death Watch (Zondervan).

a. Shakespeare
b. Elizabeth Barrett Browning
c. Raymond Chandler
d. Dr. Seuss
e. Hemingway
f. Al Gansky
g. Edgar Allen Poe
h. Every creative writing student who ever took a course at a junior college.
i. Cue the theater music for Annie.
j. Jack Cavanaugh (Seems I favor the prophetic with my openings.)
k. John F. Kennedy
l. God


At 6:12 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Okay, totally hooked me with this one! I won't write a publishable word today! But what fun! ; )

There once was a night that was clouded
In darkness the heavens were shrouded
The rain came in force
On the fairway and course
And Tiger Woods stayed home and pouted.

Answer: Ogden Nash

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

Help...I can't stop!

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a night in possession of darkness, must be in want of a storm.

Answer: Jane Austen

At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A stormy night in Leadtown Row is a stench, a bad habit you just can't break, a dark, dank dream where life crawls and limps and moans, and where a stranger wandering in would keep close watch on his back to see what might have churned up from the sewer to dog his steps.

BJ, posing poorly as Steinbeck
Jack: By the end of the day, you'll see that you've created a monster!

At 8:43 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Now, I'm ruined for the rest of the day! How fun!

HE was a dark and stormy Knight

Answer: Romance Novelist

Sorry to say I didn't come up with this one, I heard it sometime ago.

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roland sat at the base of the tower, his dream, even his life, in ruin as the dark and stormy night engulfed him and promised to make him pay for his past.

A bad Stephen King...Colleen can do better.

At 8:55 AM, Blogger A. M. Wilson said...

It was a dark and stormy night. Somewhere a dog barked. Its frantic howls lingered and froze in the bitter evening air until, finally, a hush enshrouded the landscape. The wind swept through the line of trees shrieking mournfully, rattling panes and floorboards on the houses nested in the valley below. A car moved through the darkened countryside and came to rest with a crunch of tires in the snow, just above the crest leading into town. The headlights caught the branches moving dangerously in the wind and cast odd shadows across the fresh white snow. A single occupant opened the driver’s door and stepped out. The reasons for coming here now were clear and turning back was no longer an option. Resting a hand on the door, the silent figure studied the quiet town. Yes, it is time…time to take this town back.

Too many dark corners concealed the unknown. Where and what was the enemy? How would it strike?

Mike looked left, then right before kneeling in the shadows of his car. A silent prayer for strength passed his lips before he got back in and drove toward the town.

His mind whirled with thoughts, but none seemed to make sense. Why would the police chief lie about a suicide? Where could the body have disappeared to?

Allison Wilson
Vintage ME! :-)

My local writer group did this exercise a few years ago and it sprouted a whole book. :-)

At 9:36 AM, Blogger James Scott Bell said...

Papa Hemingway:

He at in the dark. He sat in the dark and the storm. "It is a good darkness," he thought. "It is a good night to have a storm."

The night was good, just as it was good in Paris that night when Stein came. "She was not good," he thought. "But the night was. So was Paris."

He looked at the fish. It was big fish. "A good fish," he thought. "A good fish to catch at night in a storm. The fish is better than Stein. It is almost as good as Paris."

He stood up then. The bull was coming for him. "A bull in the night," he thought. "It is better than a bull in a china shop. It is better than a bull in Paris, unless it is running after Stein."

He took up his rifle and shot the bull. Then Jack came, and Gansky, and they all sat around the fire, shooting the bull.

"It is a good night to waste," he said.

"Yes," Jack said. "I am glad I could help."

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

You're brilliant. Loved your post! On a side note, I, too, love the word "juxtaposition." I also love "jettison." Here's a sentence with "juxtaposition" in it:

The anatomical juxtaposition of two obicular oris muscles in the state of contraction.

That's the definition for "kiss."

Can you tell I write romance? :)

Thanks again for a mind-stretching post.

At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Al, I think yours wins!

Jack, I really needed to write a chapter today, but now I'll sit in my local coffee house, tapping out variations of dark and stormy nights.

Thanks a lot.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hah. Thanks for the laugh.

At 1:41 PM, Blogger Cindy Swanson said...

There was no possibility of taking a walk on that dark and stormy day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the dark and stormy morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so dark and sombre, and a rain so stormy and penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question."

OK, so I didn't have to change that one much at all!

Answer: Charlotte Bronte

At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dark and stormy nights in white satin
Never reaching the end,
Dark and stormy nights I've written
Never meaning to send...

Answer: The Moody Blues

posted for Laurie Alice Eakes

At 2:04 PM, Blogger Angela said...

Because I could not stop for Fun—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Distractibility.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my Leisure, too,
To waste a perfect Day—

We passed the chores I should have done--
My work—why rue my fate?—
We passed the pages I gave up—
To procrastinate—

Since then—'tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than my plight
If only I’d not read this blog
Of dark and stormy nights.—

Heh heh heh. Angie Hunt, blogging as Emily Dickinson

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

I have a thousand favorite authors/books. Here are four, with the dark and stormy night reference:

"On that November afternoon when I first saw Cutter Gap, it was a dark and stormy night." --Christy by Catherine Marshall

"'Can you tell me, Octavia, why our luck never seems to change for the better?' asked Mrs. Drusilla Wright of her sister, adding with a sigh, 'We need a new roof.' It was a dark and stormy night."
--Ladies of Missalonghi by Colleen McCullough

"I should of been in school that April day. But instead, it was a dark and stormy night, and I was up
on the ridge near the old spar mine above our farm, whipping the gray trunk of a rock maple with a dead stick, and hating Edward Thatcher. During recess, he'd pointed at my clothes and made sport of them. Instead of tying into him, I'd turned tail and run off. And when Miss Malcolm rang the bell to call us back inside, I was halfway home." --A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

"Make you the world a bit more beautiful and better because you have been in it. That is your mother's message to you. It was a dark and stormy night." --The Americanization of Edward Bok, An Autobiography

Thanks for this mind stretching.

At 2:20 PM, Blogger Patricia Hickman said...

... It was April 15 and it was dark and there was water standing in the street and no lights and windows broke and boats all up in the town and trees blown down and everything all blown and I got a skiff and went out and found my boat where I had her inside of Mango Key and she was all right, only full of water. So I bailed her out and pumped her out and there was a moon and plenty of clouds and still plenty rough and I took it down along; and when it was daylight I was off Eastern Harbor. Brother, that was some storm.

Patty Ernestine Hemingway
(Make it stop!)

At 2:25 PM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

This is addictive.

Tomorrow by Edgar A. Guest

He was going to be all that a mortal should be
No one should be kinder or brave than he

A friend who was troubled and weary he knew, Who'd be glad of a lift and who needed it, too; On him he would call and see what he could do

Each morning he stacked up the letters he'd write
And thought of the folks he would fill with delight

It was too bad, indeed, he was busy today, And hadn't a minute to stop on his way; More time he would have to give others, he'd say,

The greatest of workers this man would have been
The world would have known him, had he ever seen

But the fact is he died and he faded from view, And all that he left here when living was through, Was a mountain of things he intended to do

Oops. Got so caught up in this poem of yesteryear, I forgot to add the dark and stormy night.

At 5:22 PM, Blogger Camy Tang said...

ROFL!!!!! Jack, you are one sick puppy. Free cell indeed. More like Spider Solitaire.

At the risk of insulting her, here is my contribution a la Kris Billerbeck:

If the sky gets any darker or wetter, I'm going to crash my convertible into a juniper bush and give Purvi a cow and send Kevin screaming to the emergency room to feverishly surgerize my broken--but fashionably-turned-out--body.

This is harder than I thought!

At 5:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack says--

When was the last time you had that much fun wasting time? Great responses, everyone.

If I have succeeded in keeping just one person (other than myself) from meeting their daily writing goal, I will not have written this blog in vain.

At 6:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more in the style of Jack Cavanaugh:

Dark and stormy!
The night was ominous as all the surviving members of the Morgan family got together for a reunion. Adjusting their hearing aids, they told stories about the family Bible and all the ways God had blessed them over the years.
At eight o'clock, most of them went to bed.

[From the final installment in the Amereican Family Portrait series, "The Pacemakers"]

At 8:11 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

The 60s Poet version:

The Dark.
The blackest dark.
The darkest, blackest darkiest darkness.

It calls to me. It speaks to me. But I cannot cross the flooded gap.

Curse the raging storm.
Curse the raging storm.

Thank you.

{wild snapping of fingers inserted here...)

At 8:15 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Ooh! Ooh!

And then there's Haiku!

The dark of the night
Awash in stormy weather
I cry. No one hears.

At 8:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack said: "If I have succeeded in keeping just one person (other than myself) from meeting their daily writing goal, I will not have written this blog in vain."

Consider your efforts worthwhile, Jack. On several fronts, from what we're hearing.


At 9:23 PM, Blogger Katie Hart - Pinterest Manager said...

I admit, I am a fan of freecell. Perhaps using a different mode of thinking for a while relaxes the mind so I can go back to my writing fresh.

It's a nice thought.

Freecell does get addicting. Especially when you try to break your record winning streak. I gave up after 107 wins.

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Illuminating Fiction said...

Oh well. Look what I missed out on when I didn't check the blogs for a few days.

Guess I'll just have to go back to playing my favorite computer timewaster, Chicken Invaders, or Jambowling on my cell phone.

At 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sorry you missed the fun! But I'm glad to hear that you managed to waste the day through other pursuits. As long as you were non-productive like the rest of us, that's the important thing.



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