The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

Archive for December 2017

The Fiction That Was

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Soliloquies Anthology vol.22.1 arrived in the mail a few days ago.  I had been anticipating its arrival given that my flash fiction piece “Hardware” was published therein.  Like anything that shows enough promise to merit publication, there was an worthwhile journey to the story getting there.

Cool cover design, eh?

The story came to me after having gone to Home Depot one day last summer to buy a bucket.  My writer brain was engaged like always, and even though I was out of there in ten minutes, my experience that day kept playing in my mind.  I was particularly focused on the woman who helped me—she seemed friendly to the point of being a little too friendly, and I wondered if that was a cover to somehow kick-start herself into being happy with how she was earning a living.  I got to thinking about our brief encounter from her point of view, and I was weaving that in and out of my mind with what I would do if I worked there and I wasn’t happy but I wanted to find a way to make myself happy.

This is somewhat vague and at least a little complex, I know, but it’s how my writing mind works.  I started writing some thoughts down as if I were the woman who helped me, who I named Dawn.  I was mindful of how I was developing her voice, though.  I know from previous experience that first-person narration relies heavily on how interesting the narrator’s voice is, so I was perhaps more mindful of developing voice than I was anything else.  Some of the other elements that come into play in fiction and narrative non-fiction pretty much took care of themselves.  I stuck only to Dawn’s encounter with me, which was about 5 minutes in real time, so the plot was very short and entirely forward-moving.  But I was mindful, too, to create a tone that made it apparent that it’s not the job Dawn doesn’t like so much as some of the people she works with who she feels don’t care about their job as much as she does.

Through the drafting process, I was able to find the language to make Dawn’s voice sound real for her station in life, but I also tried to come up with some quirks and nuances to make it more idiosyncratic to her.  Plus, there had to be an unexpected thing or two in there along the way to surprise the reader and keep them interested.  The practice alone with creating this kind of language made the story worth writing, but I wanted to take it further.  James Wood’s excellent text How Fiction Works told me that if I’m using a first-person narrator, I’m also using an unreliable narrator.  Woods references, “…the unreliable first-person narrator, who knows less about himself than the reader eventually does.”  So what was the reader going to realize about Dawn by the end that Dawn doesn’t realize about herself?  I settled on something, but there’s no use in telling you the whole damn story.  Buy Soliloquies Anthology vol.22.1, or holla at me and I’ll hook you up.

Once I felt I had this thing nailed down, it was a matter of finding a place that publishes flash fiction.  I came across Soliloquies Anthology, and told them that based on their name alone, I thought I had something they might like.  Turns out I was right.

I realized long ago that there is no formula for writing a story that an editor will think merits publication.  If there was a formula, writing would be a helluva lot easier and a helluva lot less meaningful.  But I can’t shake the feeling that “Hardware” came together like a formula for me.  Maybe what I’m finding out is that the longer I practice, the sharper my writer instincts and abilities become, and the more likely I am to write something worth reading.  It seemed this time around that I was plugging pieces in because they felt like they belonged in certain places.

P.S.  Speaking of Wood’s insight into the unreliable first-person narrator, I can’t close this out without mentioning my recent favorite example of a narrator not having a clue about the biggest issue in his life.  Thank you, Thomas McGuane, for writing a story that has had a huge impact on me:  The Casserole.

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Written by seeker70

December 22, 2017 at 8:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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