Friday, 3 June 2016
A deep gut experience
First of all: YAY, HOORAY, YIPPEE, (Leon and I are doing a happy dance). You are the people who are making this book happen so thank you. It's been 2 weeks since LOVE BITES went live and it's 19% funded. While trying not to obsess about the rising digits - a worse obsession than checking Facebook or Twitter - I have been thinking a lot about my characters.
The thing about writing short stories is that:
(1) they are short and can only encapsulate or hint at small parts of the larger picture; and
(2) they dip into character's lives but often leave much unexplained. The daily habits or deeper mysteries of the character are latent and there is a tension between what is on the page and what is left unwritten.
The magic of any story is that the reader gets to actively participate by imagining what’s in the gaps or discovering what type of person would do that type of thing. It is always a challenge for writers to know how much to keep in and which lines/scenes to cut. Short story writers don’t often outline and instead walk blindly through a maze of possibilities wondering what would happen if we turned left instead of right. If we looked over that hedge or under that bush what would we find? Writing the short form is a bit like trying to solve a puzzle. Why are these characters calling out for us to write them? Why do they say that line and not another one? What grain of truth are we trying to illuminate by choosing the particular scene we write?
If you’ve ever played with magnetic poetry – magnetic words that stick to your fridge – you’ll have experienced the joy of playing with language and putting together the oddest combination of words that just sounds or looks right. That’s what can happen while writing a story; something feels right and seems true to the character. He or she can be pitched against a challenge, or learn something, or leave an impression on another character, and hopefully also on the reader.
Writing is a mystery; sure there’s technique to it but there’s also a deep gut experience that clicks in when a writer drives a character into the jungle of her fears and then tries to hack a clear path out of the mess. Sometimes she escapes with only scratches.