Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little Background

I have a fault when talking. It's called backstory. I can't seem to tell a long story short. Rather, I tell long stories longer. In that spirit, here is a little background on the material you will be reading (if you so choose) on Fiction Thursdays.

Shortly after our marriage, Jason and I moved to southern Illinois. While there, I had the good fortune to study creative writing under the brilliant Beth Lordan. Not a member of SIU's creative writing program, and barely a student at the university (hers being the only classes I took, as an independent study), I was touched by her generosity of time and encouragement. Beth is one of those rare finds, someone as gifted and enthusiastic in her ability to teach her art as she is at creating her art. The classes focused on the formal features of writing, the tools used to create stories (point of view, punctuation, sentence structures, etc.). Beth taught me that seemingly mundane (and already confusing) items, such as semicolons or independent clauses, could be used metaphorically in fiction. Grammar has the same effect on me as Brie does the lactose intolerant. So, when Beth said that not only EVERY SINGLE word in a good writer's work is used intentionally to move the story forward, but the form (I immediately thought punctuation) should have that purpose as well, I dropped my notebook and raced to the nearest Barnes & Noble self-help section (well, I thought about it).

In the end, her class gave me a renewed appreciation for grammar. Perhaps, it wasn't the reunion-dampening, moth-ball-scented, sharp-tongued Great Aunt I'd made it out to be. I ran out and bought a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves. I had intentions of really studying grammar, reacquainting myself will how it all works, if you will. Instead, we moved and I found out I was about to become a mother. Grammar, and writing, took a backseat.

The other thing her class gave me was a handful of "story starts." Our assignments alternated between written analyses (where we analyzed how one of the pros used form metaphorically) and emulations (a few paragraphs or a page where we shamelessly stole said pro's methods). The characters from a few of those starts haunt me a bit. I feel as though they are going somewhere. I just wish I knew where. These first few Fiction Thursdays will feature those story starts with the hope that one of those characters will ante up their secret and tell me where they're going. Now, will the first character please stand up?

No comments:

Post a Comment