Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Okay everyone. While I have been working on “I, Infantilist”, I wrote another story that was published in all 8 issues of my college magazine. It was a huge hit there, and I’m trying to publish it. I just want to post it up here so you can tell me what you think :slight_smile: So please give me feedback.

It’s rather funny and down to Earth, so hopefully you’ll like it!

Here’s Chapter One:

Chapter One: Meet Michael Wolfe

“I can’t believe you’re breaking up with me! After all we’ve been through! You stupid son of a bitch!” she screams. “You’ve been cheating on me, haven’t you? God, Michael! You’re making the biggest mistake of your life!”

“No, Lisa, the biggest mistake I made was not breaking up with you sooner.”

Smack! I feel the left side of my face burning with pain.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that I’m just another average asshole who’s breaking up with my girlfriend because I’ve done something terrible and that I deserved a slap across my face. Personally, I think it was a lose-lose situation with Lisa anyway, because she’s the type of girl who hates it when you lie but also hates to hear the truth. No, I didn’t cheat on her or abuse her in any way. In fact, I didn’t hurt her once in our relationship. See, things were good between us at first, but then I came to realize that she was just another obstacle that was getting in my way.

In the way of what, you ask? Why, in the way of life. In the way of my individuality, of my dreams. It wasn’t an easy decision to make; it took about a month of thinking about the right words to say and the right time to do it. Sorry, I’m getting way ahead of myself, so allow me to explain what’s been going on.

First of all, my name is Michael Wolfe, but most just call me Mike. I’m right at the beginning of my sophomore year of college, I have a slight case of S.A.D. (that’s Social Anxiety Disorder in case you’re wondering) and I’m one of those individuals who just follows all of the rules and lets people walk all over me…well I was, anyway. I tend to be down on my luck almost all of the time as if it were some kind of chronic illness, which I’ll get into shortly.

My parents raised me quite well; I went to church every Sunday, did my homework every night, and stayed clear of drugs and alcohol throughout high school. I tended to mind my own business and go about my life without making too many friends since I have a real problem trusting people (which is a whole other story in itself…basically, I had a best friend of six years who decided to humiliate and betray me in middle school, which greatly warped my personality…sorry, I have a tendency of trailing off sometimes). I had a job at a local restaurant called Edwyn’s (which I recently quit, but I’ll get into that later). I had a decent car, an okay job, and a small handful of friends who I pretty much hung out with every weekend. Sounds pretty good, eh? Well don’t let it fool you.

See, while all of these things sound pretty good, there was just one major problem that I had: I was always under constant attack, whether it be people giving me hell when I was minding my own business, Murphy’s Law, or acts of God. Sure, it happens to everybody, but this became a monthly, weekly, sometimes daily routine. And yet, I never really did anything about it. Instead, I’d just think about what I wanted to happen.

For instance, there was this one time when I was working at Edwyn’s and I was on the front register. I’d been taking orders all day long without a problem until this woman—no, not woman—bitch is more like it—this bitch came into the restaurant. Now I don’t usually just look at someone and think to myself, Hmm, that person looks like a bitch, but you could just see it in her eyes. She was holding a very expensive looking purse in her hands, and she had “I’m a rich snob who thinks I’m better than everyone else” written all over her face. I being the bigger person decided to be as nice to her as possible in hopes of avoiding any kind of conflict (I always avoided conflict. Yes, I admit it. I was a passive person).

“Hello, Miss. Is this going to be for here or to go?” I politely asked.

Ignoring my initial question, she says in a snobbish voice, “I want a baked potato with the works, and make sure it’s hot because every time I go here my potato is always cold. Oh, and give me a hamburger and a cola.”

“Miss, I can put that in a combo for you to save you some money if you’d like.”

“Did I say I wanted it in a combo?”

“No, but-”

“Well then don’t put it in one.”

Every word that came out of her mouth was making my blood boil, but I continued to ring in her order. She gave me her money and I began placing her food on a tray.

“Uh, I wanted that to go.” she said rudely.

“I’m sorry, Miss, but I asked you if you wanted it to go but you didn’t answer.”

“Well, I want it to go.”

Stupid lady! Stupid, stupid!

I began placing her order in a paper bag when she grabs the baked potato out of my hand and pulls the cover off to examine it. Immediately she threw her hands up in the air and scoffed.

“I didn’t want cheese on this potato! What the hell is wrong with you?! This isn’t rocket science, it’s fast food! How hard can it be!?”

That’s when the lights dimmed, a spotlight shone on me and the bitch, and a microphone landed into my hands. The scene turned from fast food restaurant to game show in a split second. The bitch looked above her head to see a sign slowly making its way down as the studio audience “oohed” and “ahhed.” As soon as the sign came down, it began to light up, word by word, the audience now reading each one that lit up: “You! Are! A! Whore!” The bitch scoffs once again, but I cut her off by bringing the microphone up to my mouth and saying, “Congratulations! You’re the winner of tonight’s episode of You Are a Whore! Your ultimate skills of stupidity and arrogance have just won you a first class ticket out of Edwyn’s and back to your home where you can loathe about the fact that you’re a whore! The exit’s that way, but don’t hit your ass on the way out!” What? You don’t believe me? It happened! I mean it…it did…………just not in real life.

See, my imagination is a little more active than your average adult’s, so I always think about how I want something to happen, but I never do anything to make it happen…or, I never did. That was before I liberated myself from my intense fear of fighting back. How did I “liberate” myself you ask? It’s simple really, because you can only push someone’s buttons for so long until you hit the wrong one, which is exactly what happened to me. The wrong button was pressed on the wrong day of the wrong week, and boy did it shed a new light on every aspect of living

TO BE CONTINUED

So? Have I captivated you? Or are you bored already? :slight_smile:

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Here’s some advice from a future (hopefully) creative writing instructor:

The biggest problem here is that there is too much telling and not enough showing. Having the protaganist introduce himself to the reader is not only a cliche, but it’s dead weight in a story like this. Michael’s personality should manifest itself through dialogue and action, perhaps with the ocasional line of self-description thrown in.

Also, if I were you, I wouldn’t open with the argument with Lisa, as Lisa doesn’t seem to have any real bearing on anything that’s happened yet. You might want to consider opening with the woman walking into Edwyn’s. That would also be a good time to be descriptive. Just calling her a bitch isn’t going to cut it. For instance, did she have high, imperial cheekbones? Did she wear expensive clothing? Was her perfume offensively strong? What about her made Michael reach the conclusions he did about her before she even opened her mouth?

Next, the humor in the imaginary microphone bit seems too forced. Maybe try infusing some surrealism here, make the reader believe it’s actually happening (and subsequently raising the question of whether this is a dream or a drug-induced hallucination or something) before Michael snaps back to the sound of the woman’s voice.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the present tense, but if that’s what works for you, by all means stick with it. Just be sure you don’t slip out of it, as you do here:
“Immediately she threw her hands up in the air and scoffed.”

So far, I’ll commend you on developing a narrative voice, but there’s little else here that makes this story stand out. I’ll reserve further judgement until I read more.

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Chapter Two: Four Years Too Long

Ah, high school. Definitely one of the less enjoyable experiences of my life (with the exception of the small handful of friends I made). Remember earlier I’d told you a tiny bit about that one best friend that stabbed me in the back? Well, let’s just say that he is one of the main reasons as to why I have Social Anxiety Disorder. I won’t go into full detail as to what happened since it’s not something that I generally like talking about, but let’s just say that my experience with betrayal had created a fear of large groups of people…the perfect kind of fear, since I was in a high school that had roughly 5,000 students, each with their own distinctive smells, attitudes, and lifestyles. I was the “creepy kid who probably had a shovel in his trunk so he could bury dead bodies all over town,” as quoted by a majority of kids in my class, and the only thing they had to back up their accusations was the fact that I was quiet. Rather than trying to defend myself, I simply took it without any objection, for four years. That’s right. Four. Long. Years.

Being quiet had its advantages (and still does  ). I was the observer of the class, always keeping my mouth shut and listening to what different cliques had to say, filling my head with gallons upon gallons of knowledge to help me survive another week without getting my ass kicked. But there I go again.

This way of life really impacted everything around me. At my job, my co-workers all told me I was too quiet. At home, I locked myself in my room and played video games to escape the mind-numbing reality which I was thrown into against my will. And girls…well, they spoke to me, and I had made some pretty good lady friends (lady friends being girls who were nice enough to me that there could have been something more than just a friendship, but they all just wanted to be friends due to the fact that I wasn’t exactly normal through the eyes of the pitiful excuse for a society of high school), but I was too afraid of what they thought of me to muster enough strength to come up with a regular conversation. However, one fateful night during senior year changed all of that.

It was the end of one of the worst weeks of my life. My great uncle was diagnosed with a tumor, I was turned down by a beautiful girl to go with me to our senior ball because I “was a freak,” (I use the term loosely even though I quoted her, because apparently she thought that by listening to heavy rock music and alternative music, that made you a freak) and life in general just seemed to be in the shits. My best friend Josh Marlin (still my best friend, I might add) knew of my horrible week, so he invited me to a hockey game. I of course said yes, as I knew it’d be nothing but fun. I mean, who doesn’t want to watch huge people slamming each other into the plexi-glass, especially after having a shitty week?

“Just leave your car at the pizzeria parking lot, and I’ll give you a ride up there, bro.” Josh was always full of good ideas…this wasn’t one of them.

So we went to the game, and I had an amazing time eating popcorn and watching the dozens of fights that erupted between the players. It was the perfect way to end the bad luck streak. But there’s always something that has to go wrong.

As we drove back to the pizzeria to pick up my car, I noticed that something didn’t seem right. My car seemed to be shining a little brighter under the street lamp than usual, almost like it was covered with something…it was. Josh parked his car next to mine, and covering my car were layers and layers of shrink wrap. On the trunk was the sentence, “Mike is a fag,” written out in the frost. Someone had massacred my Silver Bullet (my silver '91 Chevy Cavalier RS) and made a fool of me! Feelings of anger, disgust, defeat, all encircling my body, each one poking me like an annoying kid pokes his brother. To make things worse, I suddenly heard a group of people howling and laughing as loud as they could, exiting the pizzeria one by one, until there were a total of seven, all of them heading towards me.

When I finally realized who two of them were, my brain screamed at me from the inside.

How could they?! This can’t be them! I know these people! They said they were my friends!

First there was Elyse, the one who deemed me a freak and declined my offer to go to the ball. Then there was Jordan, my “friend” who I conversed with almost everyday during lunch. The others aren’t important enough, since none of them were man enough to face me. Stupid assholes. Sorry. Just the thought of that night makes me tick.

So anyway, my sanity was being drained out of me, Josh was shaking his head in disbelief, and seven people then surrounded me, They all laughed and pointed their fingers at me while they screamed, “Oh shit, Mike! We got you so good! Wait till they hear about this on Monday!”

There I was minding my own business, and they decided to publicly humiliate me! This was where the decisive moment came for me.

Four years of being down my luck. Four years of not being given a break. Four years of a shitty job where people are so sure they have a right to talk down on me because I’m working in a fast food restaurant. Four years of being walked on. I couldn’t take it anymore! I wanted out of this vicious cycle, no matter what it took. That’s when I tell myself that the next person who so much as touches me is going to be at the mercy of pent up anger and rage towards all of the douche bags who busted my chops for so long. Now generally, I’m a nice guy. I’d never hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it. But sometimes you’re left with no choice but to dominate when there’s conflict.

Now they say that people with social problems tend to do absurd things when they’re thrown into an awkward position. What I did next may seem absurd, but just remember what these punks did to me.

Jordan decided he’d come up to me as I slowly ripped the wrap off of the only faithful girl in my life while people continued to laugh at me. My Social Anxiety Disorder kicked in, and thanks to my stubbornness, there were no meds to ease the discomfort. Still, I played it cool by saying, “Oh yeah guys. Real funny.” Meanwhile I thought, Go ahead and come closer, Jordan.

“Ha! You have to admit, that was pretty awesome, man!” he placed his hand on my shoulder.

Everyone (except Josh) was laughing, screaming, and feeling triumphant for ganging up on me. Little did they know that their little parade was going to be struck by lightning.

“Yeah, man. It sure was.” I said quietly.

And then wham! The next thing I know I had Jordan by the throat as I screamed, “Real funny, eh? Real! Freaking! Hilarious!”

The crowd grew silent with the exception of a few people who whispered, “Holy shit!”

I punched Jordan mercilessly in the face, and then slammed him into the side of my car. He finally broke free, but instead of fighting back, he ran to his car and drove away. As for the other six (who could have easily kicked my ass if they ganged up on me), they were terrified as I walked towards them. Not one of them dared to stand in my way. I was going to stop, but then I realized that for once, I was in control. Instead of just taking it, I was actually fighting back! While the S.A.D had taken its toll, my sanity was back, but I didn’t let them see it. I wanted to make sure that they or anyone else in my school would know never to mess with me again. This was a crucial moment that would decide the outcome of the rest of my life. It was either be a doormat, or be a doormat that bites people in the legs when they think they can just throw their dirt all over me.

“How about the rest of you?! Oh, you’re too scared? Come on! I’m just getting started! You think it’s funny to humiliate me? You thought I was just gonna sit back and take your shit?! And what about you, Elyse? Think you’re so big and tough because you’re hanging around these assholes? Now you get to see the freak I really am!”

“Calm down, Mike! W-we were just kidding!” Elyse said as the rest continue to back up.

“Well then maybe now you’ll leave me the hell alone!”

Eventually I cooled off, the crowd went home scared shitless, and things seemed to return to normal (aside from the fact that I declared the seven people my enemies).

By Monday morning, however, the whole school had heard of my shenanigans, and boy was everyone talking. Everywhere I turned I was being talked to about what had happened, and yet, I actually didn’t mind it too much.

“Mike, I heard you went crazy Saturday night and beat the hell out of some kid!” or “Mike, they say you were surrounded by seven people and still stood up to them! Damn, man!”

And so I began my new technique of hitting life with a baseball bat when it threw me curveballs. My ultimate conflict against the world…and I bet you don’t believe me. Well, I know the whole thing about Edwyn’s turning into a game show was a lie, but this was not. God be my witness. I’m serious! Don’t think the story ends here, however, because so much more happened between then and now. The world had so much more in store for me, and I was just rolling up my sleeves. Nothing was going to stop me! Nothing! (Heh…yeah right…)

TO BE CONTINUED

WingZ, I greatly appreciate your constructive criticism. You see, while college is cool, many people there STILL seem to be afraid to tell me when they find something they don’t like about my work. Still, I will continue to post until the 8 chapters are finished so I can get an “overall rating”, so to speak.

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Again, there’s too much telling and not enough showing. Mike telling the reader about himself and his problems is boring and in this case it constitutes a significant missed opportunity.

The theme here is betrayal and the anger it inspires, right? So why not play that out. Maybe start with Mike having a bad week when suddenly someone says/does something nice for him. It could be something as simple as Elyse smiling and saying, “but I’m flattered you asked” when she turns him down. That would then leave him feeling good, temporarily, which sets up a major letdown when he finds out about his car. And how would he know who the perpetrators are? Because they are the ones standing around laughing. And when the obviously hurt Mike asks why they did it and one of them says, “Because you’re a freak,” that could be what pushes him over the edge and prompts him to open up a can of whoopass on Jordan and make a spectacle of himself. Just a suggestion.

Also, after two chapters, I’m really starting to find Mike hard to identify with as a protaganist. His raging persecution complex and constant whining might be a hook for depressed teenage readers, but I’m guessing adults are going to experience some kind of a disconnect.

Next, I’m wondering why the shift to the past tense in this chapter after the first was written in present tense?

Question: you said this was published in a college lit mag, but I’m guessing it was never workshopped in a creative writing class?

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Ah yes, I’m glad you caught the mix-up. You see, I wondered the same thing this morning when I posted the second chapter. Then I remembered that I did in fact fix it up some, but it was on a jump drive of mine (I make many multiple copies of work, but I sometimes forget to update all of the files in each of their locations).

And as for the theme, it isn’t betrayal, though it’s easy to see how somebody would think that. The theme is “the last straw”, so to speak. Push somebody hard enough, and eventually they’ll get the idea that they’re going to have to push back in order to get what they want. In this case, Mike wanted to be left alone after taking it for so long, so he did something (though out of desperation) out of the ordinary. I don’t think adding the whole bit about Mike being hurt and asking why would’ve done much good, because you see, he snapped.

As for the whining bit, if this were to be read out loud, it wouldn’t be read in a whiny voice. Mike is sarcastic. He uses his misfortunes to tell his story. I know that this story will not appeal to everyone. I never expected it to be a smash hit with everyone who laid their eyes on it, because I understand that Mike may seem to be whining a lot. And believe me, I don’t consider this my best work. Maybe my funniest, but not my best.

Again, thank you for the criticisms, my friend. A rare thing to find it these days.

Oh, and to answer your question. I did fix this, but as mentioned before, I had opened the wrong file. So, now everyone will see the edited version, though seeing how you’re the only one to respond, I imagine it’s not doing me much good here anyway. Still, I shall post more.

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

I’m having difficulty seeing Mike as sarcastic. His anger/frustration and the extent to which he is hung up on his issues overwhelms the humor you try to convey. Also, if you look at his dialogue with other characters, most of his responses are straightforward.

If sarcasm and biting humor is what you’re going for, then I’m going to make a reccomendation. See if you can find a story called “You’re Ugly, Too” by Lorrie Moore.

Ultimate Conflict: Michael Wolfe Vs. The World

Interesting you should say that. Others who have read it seemed to like his tone of voice. However, most people who’ve read it know me, so that could be a major factor. Still, to each their own.

Oh, and I will have to search for that story once I go back up to college. Work’s got me in a stranglehold until I leave, so I can barely balance work and writing for the next few weeks :frowning:

Still, I’ll keep your recommendation in mind.