Tag Archives: fiction

Diss Update, Running Travails and Life Goals for One Month

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So I have written a 20-page short story and I think it’s, like, almost done. (I never used to use the word “like” in my writing that way, but now I think it’s funny). I also have a mostly done 3-page short story. Although the fonts are a little different, I made the size the same so I would be telling you the mostly-truth about length. Now I need to finish another 3-5 pager and I’ll be all done. For now.

And it would be great if I could finish some big applications then, get all the maximum number of people signed up for The OpEd Project, and procure employment. So that’s on the docket. Yay life.

Anybody who wants to give short story feedback, let me know!

In other news, I really need to pee, I am part-owner of a kitten named Mailman, and that third short story needs to come shooting out, like now. Oh wait, that’s not other news. But it just got in there. Because it’s true!

Sometimes the truth just comes out.

On an unrelated note, I might have runner’s knee. What IS that? My Dad is concerned, especially because I was talking about marathons today. I have always been against marathons on the premise that running one is bad for your body because bodies like regularity, rhythm, constancy — that sort of thing.

In any case, I may or may not think that running three marathons would be better, you know, as an initial goal, because then you would be a marathoner as opposed to a ran-a-marathoner-oncer, which would mean your body would get used to it, right? Also, I think that running marathons might be my new favorite possible excuse for traveling the world. And being super fit. Both parts = good parts. There are some potential counter-arguments to this, I think. Like that I could travel the world and run half marathons and it would probably not kill me as quickly.

And then there’s this runner’s knee thing.

Let me describe and if any of you have advice, I would appreciate it: First, I run and later my right knee is a little stiff and sore — but really really not sharp pain by any means unless I keep my knees bent for too long and then they will both hurt until I straighten them, which causes both to pop, although my left knee is never really stiff or sore and this last part (about the bent knees needing to straighten) has been true since I was in middle school so I’m pretty sure it’s not a terrible awful thing.

So it’s really the stiff/sore thing that seems bad. And the fact that sometimes when I bend and straighten my right leg, the knee pops every time. Or when I bend in a different way, to stretch or just move around, it makes little cracking noises. Does that make sense? I would like better or more advice than “ice it” because it *for reals* doesn’t hurt badly enough for that the vast majority of the time and if it did I would ice it. Also, if that’s the only option, then I really do have runner’s knee and the other big rec is that I should rest it. Get me? I like running; I don’t want to rest it indefinitely. I haven’t even been gettin all cray cray and running too much recently.

That’s the story team. Help me out.

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Another Excerpt from the Leonard Story (in need of motivation)

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“You have hardly explained any of it,” Leonard said. “I will help you if I can, but then you will leave us alone.”

It was not a question. The cat bobbed its head once; the paper remained blank. Leonard felt strangely at ease.

“What are you?” he asked.

“Get your books and pencils,” the cat replied. “The answer must be among them.” The words remained. And below them more appeared, “You have your father’s things as well, I expect?”

On being home, applications, and Roald Dahl

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I love being from Montana. It is awesome. And Absarokee Days is today! Even though I have missed the parade, it will be exciting stuff. Maybe there will even be dancing. And possibly beer.

What a life.

Even more exciting, I have applied for two jobs and almost nearly come very close to finishing a short story, and pretty soon I am certain that a funny metaphor about life will occur to me and I will be able to post it to this blog and you will be able to laugh and we will all have succeeded in laughing, which should always be a major goal.

Lastly, if you have never read James and the Giant Peach, I think you should, because it doesn’t take very long and it’s incredibly fantastical and, fun fact, it was Roald Dahl’s first children’s book, which is cool. Before it, he published a book of adult short stories — and let me say, Dahl writes some seriously good adult short stories (so good, in fact, that I think children also enjoy them) — but James and the Giant Peach was the first dive into fabulous imaginative elements of childhood. And we’re very lucky he took that dive.

The Teaser

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First paragraphs from three stories:

1

“Sue Lin Anandaran liked to clean kitchens and bathrooms. She liked to pick up the mess, scrub the surface, and leave the room smelling of lemon or lavender. She also liked listening when people talked on their cell phones in bathroom stalls. More than anything, Sue Lin liked to please other people.

From the beginning, Sue Lin’s parents had a clear idea about the kind of a woman she would become. Her mother, Joan, was a neurologist who wished she were a schoolteacher and her father, Norman, was a physicist who wished he were a master chef. Joan liked to play Scrabble, but she liked to lose more than she liked to win. Norman liked to walk in the wind with an umbrella so that it turned inside out. ”

2

When Leonard first arrived, he imagined he saw a white cat running along the overgrown railroad tracks. People were always complaining about black cats, but he, like everyone in his family, knew that real trouble wore white.

His sister was ill and soon after he arrived, she died, and there was Leonard left with a devil child to bring up. The girl may not have appeared especially devilish to most people, but Leonard could hardly manage all her running and question asking. She was quite literally full of energy. He knew this was far from a good sign, that it might even be a mark of the devil – which is why he sometimes thought of her as a devil child. But he also acknowledged that whatever beset her came from without, and he knew better than to condemn what lay within. At least, not right away. She ate like a horse, too, which was a real shame because Leonard himself preferred light meals. The girl was called Lily and she had just turned 8 years old.

3

“When I was young, I slipped into houses late at night, or on hazy afternoons, occasionally pilfering beads or a magnet, maybe a Buddha figurine. But I was never a common thief.

It was during high school, when people in my life were unreliable and everything was a blur of distraction and a failure – or an inability – to focus. Inside other people’s houses, I felt liberated. The first steps inside were the best part. To be there suddenly, to become a secret witness to mysterious lives. I narrated those lives as I walked through the house, inventing wild trysts and ugly divorces, child geniuses, or the odd addled uncle who locked himself in rooms or wandered listlessly. I imagined the lovemaking and violence of the everyday, but the unusual intrigued me. Once there was a stained glass window in the middle of an upstairs room with no furniture. Another time scissors were stabbed into the wall along a staircase. Sometimes I took things. It was an opportunity, I felt, to be fascinated, to choose trinkets no one would miss or treasures that surely prompted fierce searches.”

To write long or short?

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Facing another writing dilemma.

I have some stories to work on. They’re short — the right number of words for your average modern-day short story.

And then there’s this novel that has decided to creep up on me and out of me. Sure, that’s what writers say, right? That stories just sort of show up and determine their own arc and line, etc. Unfortunately, I think I might be one of those writers. I just don’t always know what’s going to come out of my hands when I start. And then you can misplace ideas just when you need them, or I can — if I talk out an idea for too long it goes and hides under the metaphorical couch and waits until I move all the furniture to surface again. The problem being that now I am writing but it may or may not be useful and I need it to be useful because I have to write my dissertation.

Short stories? Novel that has no end in sight? This is not really the sort of dilemma I like to have.

Inane Discussions of Person in Storytelling

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I’m describing this blog post as inane because you can discuss technique until you turn orange or blue or green in the face, but it won’t help if you aren’t a little inspired and a lot willing to work and write and draft and rewrite.

But I’m still going to talk about perspective because I’m having a conundrum and maybe Louise will comment and tell me what to do. Or maybe someone will think of an example I can consult.

Here’s part A of the dilemma. First person is intimate but it’s limited. I think it may also be more difficult for readers to relate to — unless the writer makes the narrative voice exceptionally compelling, but first person does provide a very clear dividing line when you are trying to differentiate characters one from another. You might think this is not the best use of perspective (that characters should be easy to differentiate from one another because they are actually different). But take for example a story about twins, told primarily from the perspective of one twin. Maybe it’s about their childhood and their shared experience growing up but also about the particular experience of one of the twins. Both aspects of the story are important — the dual and the singular, but the singular perspective of the protagonist twin is primary while the dual perspective and the experience of the second twin is more or less secondary.

Here’s part B of the dilemma. Think of fantasy and science fiction, or imaginative fiction or magical realism or speculative fiction or literary fiction — whatever you want to call it. From J.R.R. Tolkein to C.S. Lewis. to J.K. Rowling to Madeleine L’Engle to Roald Dahl (to… there are more but I’ll stick to the mainstream), all of these writers wrote their masterpieces in third person. I think. So I’m asking, do you have a counter example? Something that fits the novel/fiction genre, that is enduring in the classic sense or alluring in the grandiose sense and well-written according to the critics, and that is also written in first person? I’m not saying it can’t be done or that it hasn’t been done. But it’s not common. So I wonder a little why not and also if I’m missing something big. Maybe the first person seems more childish -?

Perspective is a tool. We make choices as writers to use certain tactics in the telling because the tactics serve our purpose. I’m trying to make a decision about how to approach a story and the tool seems obvious but when I use it, it sounds wrong. So I know it is wrong, but I have to rethink the approach.

Just thought you all might be super exciting to hear about my boring-est of thought trains.

Unlikely (101)

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This image was provided by Madison Woods as inspiration for the Friday Fictioneers

My dad showed me how to pluck berries from among the thorns, how to gather the precise right amount for a single emergency pie, how to stir the cornstarch with mashed ones and sugar until it thickened. We used oreo crusts and a layer of cream cheese between crust and filling. I was the best picker because I wouldn’t eat them; I had strategies for efficiency and fastidious concentration.

Something is unlikely about it.

In sports I have always been distractible. I am clumsy even with furniture, let alone thorns. I eat small things impulsively.

Yet raspberries, somehow, I can pick.

For more flashes prompted by this image, and to learn more about flash fiction, visit Madison Woods and explore the Friday Fictioneers.