Dream House – flash fiction

He stopped the car across the street from the house.

“Why are you stopping here?” his wife asked.

“You know, over the years, whenever I looked at this house, I always thought: Now that’s a beautiful house,” was his roundabout answer.

“Our dream house,” she agreed.

“The whole lot is beautiful. Of course, it’ll look better once the For Sale sign comes down.”

“You can tell the people who lived here really loved this place,” she assured him.

He gave her a flash of smile.

She nodded. “Let’s go inside.”

He shook his head. “I don’t know if that’d be a good idea.”

“Why not? You’ve got the key. What’s wrong with us going in our own house?”

“Technically, it is our house, isn’t it? Okay, but just for a minute.”

He turned the car into the driveway. They went into the house. The big emptiness of it hit them inside the doorway.

Even their voices seemed different in the void. “Remember the first day?” he asked.

“It looked just like this, except completely different.”

“The whole world was completely different then.”

“I remember you said it’d be the perfect place to raise a family,” she told him.

He pursed his lips and looked away.

She took his arm. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way. Your company downsized. That’s not your fault.”

“It’s getting late,” he surmised without the aid of a timepiece. “We’d better get to the closing and turn over the keys to the new people.”

His hand trembled a bit as he locked the door for the last time. She lifted up his face and wiped a budding tear from his eye. “There will be other good jobs and other dream houses,” she promised.

They got into the car and went away.

 

I Write Like . . .

There’s a web site called I Write Like that will analyze your writing, compare it to the styles of famous authors, and kick out the name of the author your sample most closely resembles. I have no idea if there is any science behind this analysis. The results should be taken with a grain of salt, but it’s fun to have the site suggest who you write like.

As an experiment, I entered the first few paragraphs of every story in A Smile Through a Tear into the analyzer. Then I entered the last few paragraphs. Here is a table of my results:

Story # Style of the first paragraphs Style of the last paragraphs
1 Cory Doctorow Stephen King
2 Lewis Carroll Cory Doctorow
3 H.P. Lovecraft Chuck Palahniuk
4 Stephen King Dan Brown
5 Margaret Mitchell Chuck Palahniuk
6 Stephen King Chuck Palahniuk
7 Margaret Atwood Dan Brown
8 Dan Brown Cory Doctorow
9 William Gibson David Foster Wallace
10 David Foster Wallace Dan Brown
11 Kurt Vonnegut Cory Doctorow
12 James Joyce Stephen King
13 Jack London Arthur C. Clarke
14 David Foster Wallace H.P. Lovecraft
15 H.G. Wells Jack London
16 Ian Fleming Stephen King
17 James Joyce Bram Stoker

 

According to the analyzer, I didn’t finish a single story in the style I began it. In some cases, this is not surprising. H.G. Wells’ style might not be all that different from Jack London’s. I can imagine some others on the list having similar styles.

But what’s with this Margaret Mitchell to Chuck Palahniuk transition? According to the analyzer, I’m going from Gone With the Wind to Fight Club in the space of about 6,000 words. I don’t remember writing any scenes where the dashing rake tells the heroine he doesn’t give a damn, and then they start pounding the hell out each other because it feels so good.

It's an honor, and also a stretch, for me to be compared to Margaret Mitchell.

It’s an honor, and also a stretch, for me to be compared to Margaret Mitchell.

Then I have an H.P. Lovecraft that turns into a Chuck Palahniuk. This must be the one where the protagonist examines the grotto underneath his family mansion because of all the rat noises, only to find a barroom basement where a bunch of guys are pounding the hell out each other because it feels so good. (I’m basing these Fight Club references on the movie, since I haven’t read the book.)

There’s another curious story that begins like Jack London and ends like Arthur C. Clarke. That’s the one where a sled dog befriends a self-aware robot during the Alaska Gold Rush. It’s a touching story until they have to build a fire to stay alive, only to discover that neither has any matches. (Dogs don’t have pockets and robots don’t smoke.)

Another interesting thing about this little exercise: none of my literary idols appears on the list. No one who should have molded the way I write is there. I have not read a word of some of the writers on the list. The one I’ve read most would probably be Stephen King, and I haven’t read more than three of his books.

I’m happy with the list. There are some well-respected authors on it. Besides that, I always intended A Smile Through a Tear as a collection of stories of great variety. I would say there’s some variety in the gulf between James Joyce and Dan Brown. So maybe I accomplished that mission.

Go ahead, give the analyzer a try. If you get any interesting results, feel free to tell us about them in the comments.