November 2, 2009

Back in That Saddle

Well, I’m back on the Vietnam story. What had been stopping me was how to enter the scene. Where do I start? It seemed too overwhelming. There are a lot of people in this scene and a lot of things I want to accomplish ~ too much, and it overwhelmed me. But luckily (as I said in a previous post) I’m modeling this story on another, and once I reread the model story and realized what she was trying to accomplish, it became clear what to do.

Do you ever do that ~ take a story you really like and write a story that mimics the tone and structure of that story? I find it’s a really fruitful way to learn craft. I can only hope that some of the genius of the first story filters down to mine. But a funny thing ~ the weaknesses filter down as well. There was a story I modeled on that was really good, but there were parts of it that didn’t seem to move the story forward, that you were tempted to skip as you were reading. Guess what, I got that same reaction to the story I wrote that mimicked it.

Using another story as a model also helps me correct some of my weaknesses. I tend to be spare, not to have much of a narrator over and above the protagonist helping to guide the reader, and not to have much interiority. This is a detriment when you’re trying to write literary fiction, I can tell you! Who was it who said that one of the differences between literary and genre fiction is the externality/interiority balance of the story? I’m never trying to make a story be strictly interior (e.g., stream of consciousness) ~ that’s not my thing ~ but a little more never hurt.

So I made progress today! Today, I’m a writer.

What I’m Reading Today: Maile Meloy’s first novel Liars and Saints. It’s immediately interesting, and I love the style of this book! Sort of that skimming through time of a fairy tale, but told from multiple points of view. Have I mentioned that I love multiple points of view?

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