Writing Small

Stories have several aspects to them that make things interesting:

  1. The plot — what’s actually happening; the action. In a novel, there may be more than one plot (designated as A plot, B plot, etc.)
  2. The themes — these are the wider messages of the piece. They have big implications: man vs. nature, greed doesn’t pay, etc.
  3. The characters — these are the people in the story. Generally you will have one or two main characters and maybe up to 8 point of view characters in a third-person ensemble piece.
  4. The setting — people want to know where something happens and what it looks like.
When I write novels, I seem to start with character and plot first. Like “who is this person and what have they gotten themselves into?” Inspiration comes from that kernel of the story and spreads out from there as I’m writing.

Writing short stories, on the other hand, feels strange — all the parts of the story are there, but they’re a lot smaller, with one sentence often carrying the seed to all the parts: For example, “A woman hallucinates about the end of the world — or does she see visions?” With that idea/character/plot, I proceed with the story. 

Short stories are harder for me because of motivation. I can’t dwell in a short story for months at a time like I can novels, so it doesn’t tempt me as much. I’m with the characters and the plot only for a short time, and I have to make the best of my time. 

What is my blog about?

I’ve noticed that the tone of this blog is not consistent. I originally set out writing about the craft of writing, writing the blog entries as I learned. I still write this way from time to time (yesterday’s post). I decided that I sounded a little didactic (i.e. like a professor teaching class), and I included personal writing examples in the analysis.

Then I realized that people reading — most of whom I suspect aren’t writers — enjoyed reading those excerpts and short stories and poems, so I sometimes posted creative writing without analysis.

And then my depression leaked in. You likely knew when it did, because my normally positive self despaired over every rejection and my writing took on a tone of desperation. In retrospect, I kept it in the blog because the experience of depression is real and maybe one of my two readers struggled with it or its mirror twin, mania. And now I’m writing on a semi-creative book about living with bipolar disorder.
So what is my blog about now? I believe it’s still about writing — writing on one’s journey through a forest of skeletons, writing about delighting in a beautiful creature, turning one’s visions into a character’s journey. It’s about the practice of writing — the choice of words, the way they’re used, and sometimes the way they’re misused. It’s about being a writer — publication joys and woes (in my case, it’s woes), lost material. It’s about writing as a way of understanding one’s personal baggage and acknowledging our common humanity.
Most of all, it’s about honesty — I choose my words, but I don’t censor my image. I claim the adjectives “raw”,  “honest”, and “TMI”. I speak to the people who haven’t found their voice, whose voices shake, and whose voices have been taken from them. I also speak to the people who have had smooth lives, that they understand the world of those of us who haven’t. This is my calling as a writer, more than just putting pretty words down. I want us all to find our true homes.
The reason I’ve written this is because yesterday, I was interviewed by Jennifer Peltz of the Associated Press about the progress of women speaking out about sexual assault over the past twenty years, from Take Back the Night marches to today’s #MeToo movement. I spoke both as a professor and a role model, as a victim of rape and as a survivor. I don’t know how much of the interview, if any, will be included in the article, or whether anyone will read the article. If it gets published, I may stay in relative obscurity. I may get harassed, have my life threatened and my contact information published on the Internet. I see my honesty about my experiences as my calling at least as much as my writing is.
If the worst happens, I may need your support. Please keep that in mind.
And thank you.