View Full Version : Dear Alan Guge, (flash fiction)

2010-05-27, 11:32 PM
I'm a junior in high school (almost a senior). My modern lit class recently finished reading John Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, and we were assigned to either a) write a 3-page metafiction story or b) write around 3 pages worth of flash fiction (essentially, really short stories) and a one page analysis. I chose to do the flash fiction, but I sort of combined it with the metafiction option. I suppose the end result is more akin to poetry written in prose than legitimate flash fiction, but I think it turned out rather well, although perhaps I am simply mistaking pretension for art.

Anyway, here it is. The title of the whole collection is "Dear Alan Guge," (and yes, the comma is part of the title).

And don't worry about cheating—I turned the assignment in and have already received a grade on it. I'm just looking for some honest feedback.


Dear Alan Guge,


I had a pencil. It was a yellow Ticonderoga pencil, one of those with the soft erasers like pink chocolate. I always used it to fill in the bubbles that I drew and also the ones from the SSATs. I tried to kill it by strangulation once, just to see if I could. It broke.

Now I use a mechanical pencil. When you push the button, the lead comes out, long and hard, like an out of place phallic symbol that doesn’t belong in this story.

Now I type. My fingers fall like stars and, inevitably, the blank white temple is overrun with heaven’s judgmental serifs. It’s not my fault, I say like a liar.

Sentence Structure

Pronoun verb past participle, I write.

You read, confused. Oh dear, you think. Is this one of those stories? Another conceited balloon of arrogance with a liberal arts degree over-saturating the sea of literature with more metafictional muck. If you have to pollute, at least make it a real sea.

Ha, I say. You used a sentence fragment.


There’s something so special, serene, even soothing about the smoothly serendipitous selection of a similar sound. Writers rely overly on readers receiving written rags, not read aloud, but mellifluously musical mimesis may maximize the marked enjoyment of otherwise well-wrought works. Why waste words on variety, vernacular, or verisimilitude, when long, lovely—what’s a word that starts with L that’s a synonym for a story, but also has connotations of beauty? Certainly, I’d have sworn I could seize that sweetly symphonic syllable, but sadly, alas—not so.

Word Choice

Dear Mr. Lindbergh,

Is that how I should open? I think “Mr.” might imply a sort of formality or respect for the recipient, and I’d rather not relinquish my dominance over the dialogue just yet. Also, there’s the comma issue. Comma or colon? I looked it up online, and a colon is supposed to denote a business letter, which is good. This is technically a business transaction. But on the other hand, that has the same problem as the Mr. Oh well. Good enough. Let’s just soldier on, shall we? All right. Where do I go next? Hm.

I want—no, not want. Require? Need? Desire? Where’s my thesaurus? Want and desire don’t seem strong enough, but need doesn’t adequately express the choice in the matter. And require again has that damn formality problem. Maybe I won’t start that way at all. Instead of focusing on my motivations, I’ll just co-opt his. Yes, that’ll work.

If you ever want to see your son again, you will give me…how much? Damn! I don’t want to seem soft, and I want to get a good take. But if I’m too demanding, I won’t get anything at all. And I really don’t want to keep this stupid kid—he just sits there, crying all the time. What’s the going rate for a ransom these days, anyway? I should’ve done my research. I have to keep going, I suppose. Too late to turn back now. Regardless, the sentiment is what’s important.

Yours sincerely?

Yes. Always yours,

Alan Guge


I titled my collection of fiction "Dear Alan Guge," because "Alan Guge" is an anagram of "language." It also sounds like "a language" when read aloud. Thus, the first thing I establish is the preeminence of language, in both written and oral forms, which is a repeated theme throughout my fiction. It also implies that I, as the writer, am addressing and initiating a dialogue with language itself.

My first piece, "Simile," is intended to establish not only the supremacy of language (In case the first attempt was too ridiculously obscure) but also its inevitability. I (as the narrator) try to stop it by refusing to use the first two implements of writing described, but at the end, finally, I give in. In the last section, I try to evoke apocalyptic/Armageddon-like images while still making it clear that I am talking about words being written onto a page: for example, I chose the word "serifs" because "serif" sounds like "seraph," which is a type of angel. The last words, "It's not my fault, I say like a liar," are intended to imply that the I is not in fact lying—a simile is used to compare two unlike things.

My second and third stories, "Sentence Structure" and "Alliteration," are intended to be mostly fun and humorous. The first is an acknowledgment (and an ironic affirmation) of the idea that writers of metafiction are arrogant and annoying. The second is supposed to emphasize the sound of language and assert language's dominance even over the writer, as evidenced by the fact that the narrator is unable to completely control language and find a suitable word that fits the pattern he tries to impress upon the story.

The last piece, "Word Choice," repeats this theme with the narrator's inability to adequately express his intent through writing. I also tried to foreshadow the kidnapping aspect of the story with the use of the name "Lindbergh," although I was worried that it might be a bit tasteless. Alan Guge is the name of the kidnapper (not that I know why a kidnapper would reveal his name), but I tried to make the ending also sound like the narrator was saying that he was always Alan Guge's, so that language is both the kidnapper—the one in control of the situation—and the kidnapper's master.

I tried to emphasize the themes of progress, inevitability, and man's subservience to language in all of the poems. I used inevitability to echo Barth's idea that communication is a primal need that must be met. I used man's subservience to language to show that language is a beautiful creature of its own, an organic thing (in which originality is irrelevant). At the same time, however, I used progress (the pencil is replaced by the mechanical pencil is replaced by the keyboard, the writer of the ransom note has to keep going) to show that man is not useless—man and language have a symbiotic relationship.

Thoughts? Armchairs? Orangutans?

2010-05-27, 11:50 PM
These are great flash fictions, (a term of which I was not previously aware of), Word choice in particular is excellent.

2010-06-01, 11:13 AM
Thanks. And yeah, I ended on that one particularly because I thought it was stronger—the first one was actually the last one I wrote.