2005 and counting

Sunday, January 2nd, 2005

Well it’s now 2005 and counting. Not much to say about the new year, except to wish those stricken by tsunami well in the recovery, survival, and rebuild. What horrors on the beaches.

Susan at Spinning is writing about narrative as she gears up for fiction writing. I’d suggest not to worry about short or long story, but rather about story and how it manifests. In fiction we’ll be dealing with shorter forms to start because we can manage a lot of them in a semester. Each story will demand what it demands. But I winder if as she writes them she sees the whole circle? Do I when I compose a story? Sure, a vague sense of what the story might look like at resolution.

What about the novel Suttree and Edson’s short Dinner Time as examples of story? One is long, the other short. Different shapes, but story nonetheless. But how they both drill into memory.

John Timmons announces the IF course for the Summer, too. Teaching at Tunxis is itself a lesson in timewarp.


3 responses to “2005 and counting”

  1. gibb says:

    “I’d suggest not to worry about short or long story, but rather about story and how it manifests. In fiction we’ll be dealing with shorter forms to start because we can manage a lot of them in a semester. Each story will demand what it demands.”

    I would have to argue with you (and I do this so seldom) that concern about story length is a valuable tool in learning to exercise concisity (!) in development of story, just as the practice of poetry is a lesson in imagery that extends itself all the way through literary efforts including the novel. Perhaps this is a personalized effort, and particular to my own storytelling flaws, but once one eliminates the goal of publishing yet continues on the writing path, it is obvious that the efforts are being made for self-improvement rather than fame and fortune and are justified in themselves.

    “But I wonder if as she writes them she sees the whole circle? Do I when I compose a story? Sure, a vague sense of what the story might look like at resolution.”

    This too, for me is part of the learning process. I have only just begun to lead my characters to a destination–even without a clear destination in mind. While it sounded very dramatic and artsy to claim that the characters wrote the story and the writer just types down what he/she hears from their whispers, it (again, in my personal experience) seems that what may happen is a well-written narrative without resolution, or a quickly drawn up last minute plan to end the tale because it’s running over word length. I’ve managed to ramble in this way for 300 pages once. It is much more difficult to fool a reader into thinking there is a story within a page or two.

    “What about the novel Suttree and Edson’s short Dinner Time as examples of story? One is long, the other short. Different shapes, but story nonetheless. But how they both drill into memory.”

    And this is what the focus on all elements, even story length, is all about.

  2. steve says:

    Susan,

    I’m not quite sure what you’re arguing. The scope of a story is certainly important, but I’m claiming that “form” is arbitrary in general but specific to each story told. Each story that you write will take its own shape but will still tell a story. How it tells the story, the narrative, may (I’m never sure of anything as regards the creative process) take a particular necessary form.

    Each story should be self contained. For example, compare Bank Robbery to Reunion in Sudden Fiction, if you have the book. The voices are radically different as are the means by which the stories are told. But they both have clear resolutions: they both end in a big bang.

  3. gibb says:

    I guess I’m looking at it from the process angle rather than the finished product, and so my insistence on practice in one form that benefits all. Certainly some need more telling (or preferably, showing) time than others, and all must have a beginning and an end with a middle full of substance.

    I don’t mean to make this entry all about me, but that is the only way to relate it to what each of us are saying (and again, I’m probably looking at it from my own cockeyed viewpoint) and when I read your post, I thought of all I’ve written in December–two short stories and eight “flash fiction” pieces–that all number less than a thousand words, and with “real” endings; a virtual impossibility for me any time prior to that. Then, in reviewing the “why” of it, discovering that the approach was responsible for the difference: thinking of “story” first and foremost (having always dreaded walking into one of your classes to your ringing words, “yeah but, what’s the story?”) and realizing that this approach was so very different than my normal starting point of an opening paragraph and just letting it flow–often to useless rambling and a rather blah ending.

    I’ve read both Bank Robbery and Reunion and was awed by the discovery that they were completely told so fully in such brief form. Obviously, neither needed more words, and yet a month ago, I might not have understood this concept: If the story is there, complete with intro, plot and denoument, and all it takes is three lines of haiku to tell it, then there you go.