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Writing Satire as a Senior Project

Posted by P. E. Murray ’20 on May 15, 2020 1:39:01 PM

In Case You Cant Tell, I Like Evelyn WaughI had begun to write satire in the winter of my junior year. Initially, I had begun writing absurdist essays, with some of the less naughty works bearing (in a Swiftian fashion) long-winded titles such as A Handbook of Etiquette for the Practicing and Properly Catechized Catholic Youths Who, at Present, Happen to be Enrolled in a Secular Secondary School and An Opinion on the Current State and Continuation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’s Current Westminster Governing System. But having read far too many Evelyn Waugh novels, I dreamed of making the jump from essays to short fiction, of writing satire with a proper plot. What this plot was going to be, I hadn’t yet known, but in a spark of inspiration, I created the perfect name for my future protagonist: Ambrose C. Peers. What did the ‘C’ stand for? I didn’t yet know, but it certainly wasn’t going to be Charles.

Then last summer I came up with the idea for a short story which would employ Ambrose. The plot would be simple; a mostly mild-mannered, devout, conservative, Oxford-educated Britisher (who in no way represents the platonic ideal of myself savagely caricatured) realizes he is not going to become a priest and so hastily seeks a commission as an officer in the Royal Army. He is subsequently given command over a garrison in the Crown Colony of Elios, a made-up island that loosely parodies Cyprus and its emergency. Hijinks of geopolitical consequence ensue, and Ambrose blunders through it all; yet an unexpected encounter with the Hellenic Navy allows him to redeem himself.

At the WorkspaceAfter a few weeks of writing, I had written Lieutenant Ambrose C. Peers, a short story just shy of ten thousand words. But having written one, I thought why not write two more, put them together, and make a novella? So I began to write part two, The Bachelor, Mr. Ambrose C. Peers, with plans to write one more, The Inquisitor, Mr. Ambrose C. Peers for a three-part composite work that was to be known as The Insufferable Mr. Ambrose C. Peers.

Once senior project applications rolled around, I decided to make my writing venture into my project, and having written six thousand words of part two, planned to blitz through part two, write part three in the spring, then self-publish several dozen paperbacks for distribution in the community.

Of course, several prominent setbacks meant that this was not quite going to pan out. The news of national emergency and pandemic virus meant that I spent over a week pouring over news articles and statistical predictions. And with the initial cancellation of senior projects meant that I wasn’t really all that concerned with having completed a novella by mid-May. When independent studies were instated, I knew that alas, I would not be finished in time.

So I spent most of my independent study writing part two, The Bachelor, Mr. Ambrose C. Peers, where Ambrose, now a lonely writer, embarks upon courtship in attempts to improve his writing skills. This was my attempt at a satirical romance, and I must say, it can be quite difficult to write about something you’ve no life experience in (this, of course, being romance). My knowledge of the subject is based primarily on War and Peace, C. S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, and copious amounts of Evelyn Waugh. It was often difficult to shake the feeling that I might not be making sense, or even worse, making a romantic comedy. Nonetheless, I persevered and had fun with it, and what I had initially anticipated as being a little over ten thousand words became closer to twenty.

After finishing part two, I decided to return to part one, editing and adding. My first order of business was to implement a new incident where Ambrose and his men, in attempts to find a spy, accidentally go after a journalist, giving them the appearance of intimidating the press. It was truly amusing, what with all the truncheon bearing policemen and violations of civil liberties on account of the “emergency.” Aside from the incident itself, I spent time pouring over archived newsreels from British Pathe and Wikipedia pages on British military action in the 1950s. Then through selective addition of details, I was able to better build the world’s authenticity as a Mediterranean colony experiencing a low-intensity conflict.

Now, facing the end of my time at Tabor and a long summer with ample spare time, I will finish the final part, where I shall thoroughly satirize both the sorry state of Catholic universities and the traditionalist fellows like Ambrose who complain about them. Hopefully, once I’ve finished, I can find some manner to distribute copies of The Insufferable Mr. Ambrose C. Peers to the community, and I look forward to the day a few copies are contained in the Hayden Library; but until then, I write on.

Topics: Senior Projects