ATTILA THE BUN AND THE LOST PARADIGM • by Samantha Memi

I had a meeting with the editor of a well-known magazine. She said, “I think your paradigm got stuck up your monomyth.”

“Oh dear. Is that bad?”

“Bad? You want to be a writer, don’t you?”

“Well, I did. I’m not so sure now. I mean, if I get my paradigm stuck up my monomyth, maybe I should find another career.”

“Look, you write well. I mean for an amateur your writing is quite good. But…”

I knew there would be a but.

“Let’s look at what you’ve written. You’ve got a cheese-and-tomato sandwich who wants to fuck a sausage roll.” She looked at me over the top of her glasses. “Right?”

“Right.”

“Where’s your hook?”

“What hook?”

“Your hook? A mechanism to catch the reader.”

“I haven’t got a hook.”

She offered me a cigarette. I refused. She lit hers. Smoke came out of her nose. I thought, Dragon lady, that’s a good story, She came in the night, breathing fire.

“You must have a hook. It’s imperative. What about your plot point?”

“Plot point?”

“You don’t know what a plot point is?”

“Um… no.”

“You don’t know much about writing, do you.”

I agreed I didn’t.

“Is the sausage roll vegetarian?”

“Um… I’m not sure.”

“If your sausage roll isn’t vegetarian what’s the attraction for the sandwich?”

“Um…”

She leant over her desk.

“No self-respecting cheese-and-tomato sandwich is going to want to fuck a sausage roll full of meat.”

She blew a puff of smoke in my face and leant back in her chair. I had to admit I hadn’t thought of that. She smirked.

“You have to define your characters. If you were a cheese-and-tomato sandwich would you fancy a sausage roll, or would you lust after another sandwich?”

That was a conundrum I hadn’t envisaged when I came for the meeting.

“You have to know your characters. What kind of cheese is it? Are they cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes? Organic wholemeal or sliced white?”

This was getting more complicated by the minute. So many decisions.

She brought out a huge hardback book, the size of a small house, and let it fall onto her desk where it shook the room so badly I wobbled on my chair.

“This is your seven point paradigm.”

“My what?”

“You must have a paradigm and it must have seven points. Now, who’s your main character?”

“Attila the Bun.”

“Who?”

“Attila the Bun.”

“Where does he come into it?”

“At the end when Claude the sandwich is fucking Harold the sausage roll, Attila the Bun attacks and chops everyone to bits.”

“What’s the point of that?”

“Um…”

“I mean, does this Attila represent the greed of corporate institutions trying to crush the common man from enjoying his life?”

“Um…” Why did she keep asking difficult questions?

I looked out the window at the sunshiny day. Wouldn’t I rather be home with my daughter showing her how to make cupcakes? Ms Paradigm caught my disinterest, and squinted.

“Have you layered your plot?”

“What with?”

“Subplots.”

“What are they?”

She looked at me as if I were a smudge on her desk and I needed to be wiped off.

She took a deep breath. “Take this book. Read it and learn about writing.”

I staggered down the stairs and into the street. The book was so heavy I had to get a taxi home. On the way I wondered whether Attila should have white icing or pink. I didn’t like sticky buns. Was my prejudice against cheap cakes corrupting my fiction? Was I biased in my writing? I wanted to be fair to all my characters. I decided to show Attila’s good side by making him the adoptive parent of a Danish pastry.

Once home I eagerly levered open the massive tome and marvelled at all the diagrams showing plot points and turning points and arcs. I wondered if the people who wrote this had written any stories, but apparently they hadn’t. Such a pity. I’m sure any stories they wrote would be the most paradigmed, monomythed, plot-pointed stories ever written.

I tried to read the first paragraph but I couldn’t understand any of it. I realised I’d have to buy a dictionary. This writing game was going to be a lot more difficult than I’d envisaged. If I couldn’t read a book about how to write, how could I learn to write? Worry disturbed my sleep.

I returned the book to its owner. “I can’t understand it,” I told her.

“What a pity,” she said, “I had such hopes for you. What will you do now?”

“I think I’ll go back to baking.”

“That’s nice.”

In honour of my literary effort I made sausage rolls and cakes.

“Mm, yummy,” said my daughter as she ate Attila the Bun. Her sticky smile was worth a thousand plot points and a million editor’s smirks.


Samantha Memi is a patisserie chef, well-known in London for her children’s parties. Her devotion to her job became obvious when she continued baking even after being attacked by a table full of savage cakes and thrashed to within an inch of her life. Her recipes for a happy life can be found at http://samanthamemi.weebly.com/.


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 average 4 stars • 4 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • What a silly story. I couldn’t get into it at all.
    Call me a prude but the use of the ‘f’ word seems so prestentious, it just puts me off.

  • Must admit, I also found the use of expletives a bit gratuitous.

  • I should note that the editorial team was divided regarding the use of profanity in this story, and the author did offer to change it if we wanted her to do so. It was my decision to leave it in, as the crudeness seemed to fit the Editor’s character. Apologies to anyone who feels that was the wrong choice.

  • Samantha Memi consistently produces brilliant, hilarious and original stories. This is no exception. The use of expletives in this piece is a non-issue.

  • I know that paradigm/hook/subplot woman; I recognized her immediately. She’s the only person on earth I truly hate besides the Snuggle Fabric Softener bear.

    An excellent story that make me giggle big time, Samantha! And count me among those who wasn’t phased by the use of expletives. Stephen King uses them, Stephenie Meyer doesn’t – that’s all I need to know. 😉

  • Mary J

    I enjoyed this. Made me laugh. 🙂

  • I thought this was a brilliant story. In fact, this is just how I felt in some of my college creative writing classes. People asking what my story said about society, what it said about “being a woman,” what my meaning was, etc. And I’d say, “I don’t know. It was just supposed to be funny.”
    Thanks, Samantha.

  • Alas, now I’ve been likened to Stephanie Meyer, I realise my opinion is worthless. I will visit Twilight Anonymous, immediately.

  • ajcap

    OMG, that is hilarious. Laugh out loud, pee my pants hilarious.

    The expletive fits perfectly. It’s just another arrangement of four letters.

    So much funny stuff, hard to pick favourite but these are the winners:

    Was my prejudice against cheap cakes corrupting my fiction? I decided to show Attila’s good side by making him the adoptive parent of a Danish pastry.

    Samantha, you always make me laugh. I must share. Five stars.

  • Like it. I’d say, when a cheese-and-tomato sandwich is fucking a sausage roll, it’s too late for euphemisms.

    Nice homage to Monty Python (Attila the Bun).

    If you’re not familiar with it, I’d recommend checking out Howard Schoenfeld’s 1949 story “Built Up Logically”. (Actually, pretty much any short-story writer should read it.)

  • Mara

    You always make me laugh, Samantha. I agree totally with Erin. I’ve experienced the same. And with the same four letter words!

  • Jo McKee

    I have to agree with Julie, Samantha’s work is always a pleasure. If we can’t laugh at ourselves as writers, it makes the process that much more difficult. I loved it – funny and smart. Kudos.

    What I find silly is that someone would take issue with a few expletives. It does seem prudish. I have no issue with a writer choosing to make colorful language a part of their voice.

    Great work!! 🙂

  • Elle

    Samantha is a writer who has a natural ability to create stories that are “laugh out loud” funny. Atilla the Bun and The Lost Paradigm is no expectation: “No self-respecting cheese-and-tomato sandwich is going to want to fuck a sausage roll full of meat.” and “You have to know your characters. What kind of cheese is it? Are they cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes? Organic wholemeal or sliced white?” are hilarious lines.

    I take expectation to the comments that Samantha’s use of the word “fuck” is pretentious and gratuitous. She’s a deliberate writer who takes great care in her word choices. To make a suggestion otherwise – that she threw in the word “fuck” for fuck’s sake – is lazy reading at best and disingenuous at worst.

    (P.S. Camille, you made the right decision. The word “fuck” fits the story perfectly. I do hope that you and your team continue to make editorial decisions that are best for the stories and not give too much weight to two dissenting opinions.)

  • Rose Gardener

    I love this. Samantha’s stories are always hilarious.

  • Oh, dear! I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Samantha, you are a joy to read. Everything you write is perfect in every way. Brilliant loopiness. Ten stars.

  • I enjoyed every bit of it.

    Four plus stars….+

  • Joe Cifrin

    Haha! That paradigm lady is perfect and so is the reaction. Another original and insightful piece, Samantha! Awesome.

  • I found the story extremely cute and entertaining. I was chuckling from beginning to end. It’s also moderately educational in its own way. All in all, very creative, though a bit lackluster for much depth. Four stars from me.

    Regarding the expletives, I believe they were fitting for the character, and certainly should have been kept in. I didn’t feel they were in any way gratuitous or misplaced. I agree with Elle, this is a respectable decision for the EDF staff.

  • Elizabeth

    Absolutely brilliant, Samantha. The editor in your story reminds me of a rejection notice I received after the magazine kept my story for six months! And I didn’t even use the word “fuck” … Five big stars today.

  • 🙂 LOL!!! This was a fun story–tightly written and a pleasure to read.

  • Rob

    Sorry, I thought the ‘F-bomb’ out of place in such a whimsical story and I began to skim by the time I was half way through.
    I’m glad others liked it.

  • Richard Walsh

    The best story I’ve read in a while, especially given the subtext (and the criticism of subtext). Whimsical, absurd, well-written. And just enough profanity to keep me interested.

  • Katherine Lopez

    Fun story, Samantha.

  • Nancy Wilcox

    I love it. Someone once told me my writing had layers. I looked at it and all I could see was paragraphs. But, true to my raising (If you don’t know what they call you, assume it’s a compliment. Say thank you, smile, and walk away. It will keep you out of bar fights) I said thank you, smiled, and walked away. Probably what the main character should have done here. 🙂

  • JenM

    There was so much to love in this story! The crazy editor, just trying to get the Narrator to write what sells, prejudice against sticky buns and smiling daughters. Five stars.
    I’m sure the narrator’s happy going back to baking but just for the record, I’d read pastry porn!

  • I’d like to thank everyone for their comments. And a special thanks to Camille and the editorial team for publishing my story.

  • Simone

    For me, the colorful language from the editor suited her character. I picture a woman who knows she has the power to crush a novice writer and she’s not afraid to use that power. Sometimes powerful people (characters) use expletives to show their “superiority” as well as their contempt.

  • Eli Katz

    Good story. Fun story. Does a great job of making literary criticism look silly.

  • Joanne

    “If your sausage roll isn’t vegetarian what’s the attraction for the sandwich?”

    Really funny. Made me laugh and (since I share some of those analytical tendencies with the editor in the story) made me wince a little, too. Thoroughly enjoyed this.

  • Brian Dolton

    Too snide, with too little genuine humour, for my taste.

  • I adored this. Laugh out loud funny, sausage roll fucking funny. A perfect story

  • Andrew Waters

    I think humor is one of the hardest things to create in fiction and this one has it in spades. Great job!

  • Gretchen Bassier

    Absolutely hilarious! Truly, one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time. I loved every word of it, especially this line:

    “She looked at me as if I were a smudge on her desk and I needed to be wiped off.”

    Awesome job, Samantha!

  • Another hilarious one by Samantha Memi. 🙂 Actually it’s funny–despite being a humor piece it actually inspired me to go read a little bit about plot structure.

  • very witty Samantha!
    a good satire on plotting
    well done

  • Eva

    Paul A. Freeman Says:
    Oh, dear! I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

    Well done, Samantha

  • Pingback: From the EDF Archives: Attila the Bun and the Lost Paradigm by Samantha Memi « Flash Fiction Chronicles()

  • Loved every bit of it. Oh I was so tempted to throw that word in there!

  • Loved every bit of it. Oh I was so tempted to throw that word in there!