Fiction 2: WTF is a Parody?

Melville, from (of course)

Melville, from (of course)

Fiction 2 is the writing workshop that you take in your second semester of the Fiction Writing program. The big assignment is a Parody, which is your take on a published story.

In my Fiction 2 class, Alexis Pride had us read “The Nose” by Gogol, “In the Penal Colony” and “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka and “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, and then write the first couple pages of a parody of one each week.

A parody is a replication of a story’s structure, with the plot and voice updated. For instance, in The Best of Hair Trigger, there’s a “Bartleby” parody called “Bonnequa the Braider.” Melville’s story is told by a lawyer who hires a quirky scrivener who refuses to do any work, saying, “I would prefer not to.”

“Bonnequa” is told by a woman who runs a hair salon. The story is set up the same as “Bartleby,” beginning with descriptions of the hairdressers working in the salon, as opposed to the legal clerks working in the law office. Then she hires Bonnequa, who also refuses to do any work, saying something like, “I ain’t with that.”

The idea behind the parody is that it allows the writer to focus on their voice while learning plotting through osmosis. I had fun working on mine, “The Fartomorphosis,” where a guy wakes up to find out he can’t stop farting. I was preoccupied with the writing project that became my thesis, and didn’t spend a lot of time on my parody, but I did have a great time hearing what my classmates were coming up with. Knowing that your whole class is pulling from the same source material can make the parody a bonding experience.

As I describe the focuses of the different Story Workshop writing classes, I should mention that while each class has its own assignments, you are always encouraged to be working on other material. While nonfiction writing in Proseforms can be pretty all-consuming, the Steeplechase in Advanced and the Parody in Fiction 2 will not dominate your semester. You’ll have plenty of time to work on other pieces of writing that are calling for your attention.


Michelle Pretorious started the program in the fall of 2010. She is originally from South Africa. Here’s her story “Scorched Earth” in the Copperfield Review.