You are going to write a story in which your protagonist does one of the following (you pick):
- Changes gender
- Or changes species (human to two-legged animal, four-legged animal, insect, etc. or the other way around)
- Or witnesses someone close to him or her changing gender
- Or witnesses someone close to him or her changing species
- Or your human protagonist takes on another animal’s attribute–i.e. a duck’s bill
- Or witnesses an impossible weather event
- Or you could have your human change to any number of very real and familiar entities–i.e. a building, a kitchen appliance, a couch.
You will write two versions of this story/scene. If your protagonist changes from a human into a platypus in the first story/scene then in the second version the platypus turns into the human. After you have written both versions, decide which version you like best and consider whether any of the elements in the second story want to be part of your favorite version. The work you submit this week should be no more than 1000 words, but you will have written two stories that are no more than 1000 words each.
Remember, keep your story rooted in magic realism, the focus of this course, and try not push into fabulism or fantasy just yet, even if you plan to do so down the road. You will want to be disciplined about the depth and frequency of magic introduced in your story and the best way to do this is to introduce one subtle and singular moment of “magic.” Try to stay away from cliche magic: i.e., mermaids, werewolves, vampires, witches, etc. Your character might take on elements of the cliched but the character should be pushed further out of the stereotype.
Treat this shift of gender or species as if a very normal occurrence. Do not feel that you need to explain the transition. There is no need. Just as in Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings,” the reader will accept the magical element if your focus is primarily on your character(s). (Again, you might at some point decide to take this story in many directions. You might eventually want to push into fabulism or fantasy. For the purposes of this study, let’s stay solidly, best we can, in magic realism.)
Your character should be aware of the change and your setting should be very real. Choose a setting that is familiar to you, a setting you know well. It is probably best to allow only one character to go through this change; otherwise, your story runs the risk of becoming more about the world-building and background of why there are people who change in this way. Your focus should be on the “why” of the change not the “how” or “what” of the change.
If you choose to change your human to a four-legged animal, this must be a real and actual animal, though, it would be fun to play what animal you choose. A platypus would be an odd and interesting exploration. What do platypuses do? How might a platypus’ day closely relate to your human protagonist’s day? Wouldn’t it be funny to go to work one day and find a platypus sitting in the next cubicle, talking with clients on a phone? How many stories have you read where a protagonist changes into a platypus? The rarity of your animal will make for a less familiar and more engaging story.
Have fun with this assignment. Look for moments of satire and humor, irony and dark irony.