by Brittany Hanson and Hannah Holst
The basic idea of the Exquisite Corpse in and of itself was a large factor in the creation of this project. The initial idea was someone else’s, taken from another source of inspiration and shared on the board in class. The simple “I didn’t mean it when I ran over your cat with a lawn mower” triggered the response to write the next part, influenced in large part by Edgar Allen Poe’s The Black Cat. The dialogue is continued, “…anyway, I found a new cat, and it looks just like the old one, but he’s got this white patch. And I might be crazy, but it’s kinda shaped like a lawn mower.” Each of these elements directly impacted the resulting text conversation, each in its own unique way, adding to the bigger picture even if they seem unrelated on their own.
The Black Cat by Edgar Allen Poe tells the dark story of the relationship between a man and a black cat, assumed to have “seduced [him] to murder”. Many of the characteristics of the story were influenced by this narrative, though there are still a lot of differences. The original makes it clear the cat was hanged by its owner, whereas reference to the cat being killed by a lawn mower is only implied in the text conversation. In both, the cats each come back, the only difference in their appearance or temperament being a white splotch which eventually grows to look like the object by which they faced death.
Using the Medium of Texting
It was a fun challenge to tell a story purely through dialogue without the use of imagery. We had to make sure all of the details necessary to build the story and frame Edgar were in place without sacrificing the impromptu feel of a texted conversation.
Something interesting that we discovered while working as partners on this assignment was that the dialogue flowed naturally when we just started texting. We’ve had so much practice with this style of communication that after we planned the structure of the story and established our characters, we were better able to come up with the dialogue by simply texting back and forth. Texts are often spur-of-the-moment and rather thoughtless, so after deciding the direction of the story, we let the specifics of the wording mostly just happen as we responded to each other, editing as necessary.
However, we made sure that both characters referenced the afternoon, connecting the time Edgar borrowed the lawnmower to the disappearance of the cat, thus implying that the events are related.
We also intentionally juxtaposed the writing styles of Edgar and his neighbor. While Edgar is oddly formal, the neighbor responds with a lack of correct punctuation and spelling more typical of the medium. So when Edgar makes a typo, initially saying that “your cat must have certainly shred a lot,” instead of “shed,” it’s a true Freudian slip, further suggesting that something terrible went down between the cat and the lawnmower when Edgar borrowed it.