When I was in college oh, so very many years ago, I discovered what millions already know: writing can be damned hard work. This was brought home to me during the winter quarter of my senior year, when I found myself taking 17 credits on-campus and 8 by correspondence, all in a mad push to graduate in the spring. Why it was so important to me to graduate in the spring escapes me now; it wasn’t like I knew what I was going to do with a BA in English, but still, there it was. I was determined to graduate “on schedule,” and as a result found myself writing papers on Victorian Literature, American Romantic Literature, Writing Theory, World Literature, Old Testament History, and Fish Symbolism in Twentieth-Century Poetry. I was also directing a play.
Enter writer’s block. I found myself staring at black screens, a malevolent little orange dash flashing in the upper left corner, convinced I would fail. I would probably be sitting there yet, had I not discovered The Finn.
The Finn was the illegitimate child of all that Fish Symbolism, Romantic American Lit, and a typo. Late one night, instead of typing a research paper, I found myself typing, “The Finn slid slowly through the water…” From there on, it was easy. It had to be one of the lakes in Northern Minnesota, where many Finns settled, of course, and since he had two “n’s” it meant a man in a canoe, rather than a sturgeon, muskellunge, or pike. Sturgeon are bottom-feeders, anyway.
What was the Finn doing? Why was he paddling across the lake? I know nothing about Finns except that sometimes I think some of them deal with reindeer, but certainly this Finn wasn’t, not in that lake.
And so, as is my custom when I know nothing about my subject, I began to speculate, invent, and embroider. Before I had gotten the Finn safely extricated from his current predicament I had nicely busted up my writer’s block. And so it was that The Finn became a part of my writing system. When I get stuck, I write a Finn story.
And now you can, too. Here’s a bright, shiny clean thread I’ve set up for you and the Finn to get acquainted. Finn stories have only one rule: Events must follow one another. Logic can be strained, and even broken, as long as the writer acknowledges it by saying, “Through a chain of events that defy examination…” or some such thing. Coincidence is encouraged. Terrible puns are rewarded. Bad taste is de rigeur. I’ll start off in the time-honored fashion. Let’s see where this takes us:
The Finn slid slowly through the water. His heavily-laden canoe rode low in the lake. Hungry pike were circling. A storm was coming on. But The Finn noticed none of these things, because he was still reeling from the shock of having fallen in love and being heartbroken, all in the space of about five minutes.
He had portaging south from his summer fishing grounds in scenic Lake Eloise to his winter fishing grounds in the Bahamas when he happened upon a fine figure of a woman in an unseasonably heavy coat between Lake Eloise and Lake Superior. She was picking berries, or at least pretending to. Starved for female companionship he dropped his canoe–stoving a nasty hole in one side–wiped the sweat out of his eyes, slicked back his flowing black locks, and started across the meadow toward her.
She heard him, turned around, and grunted. A less discerning eye than The Finn’s might have stopped at the hirsute countenance, the black nose, the long fangs, but The Finn had been raised on the theory that True Beauty lies within. Besides, it had been pretty darned quiet up there at Lake Eloise. Women were nonexistent. The Finn was perhaps not as choosy as he might have been in, oh, say the Bahamas, just before he began his migration back north in the spring.
“Hey, Bebé,” said The Finn, going for the sophisticated French Canadian effect. Viva l’amour!
The woman grunted again. The Finn seized her in his manly arms, bent the astonished female backward, and planted a wet one right on her kisser.
They held the pose just long enough for The Finn to realize this woman had been eating a lot of berries, that she badly needed a manicure, and that she was With Someone. No stranger to the perils of love, The Finn knew precisely what to do. He…
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