Completed, 100 Days

Sunday, August 30th, 2009

The summer 2009 100 Days project is complete. The participants have been:

Carianne Mack, watercolor paintings
Jessica Somers, photography
Susan Ersinghaus, photography
John Timmons, sound composition and photos
Susan Gibb, hypertext fictions
Maggie Ducharme, meals
Neha Bawa, poetry
Mindy Bray, photography
Denna Hintze-Yates, verbal image
Mary Ellen Molski, character and story
Steve Klema, sketches conained in a flash interface, with Facebook work by Robert Wren and his Boracho Station reports, and with beginnings by James Revillini and David Pender.

And me,
Steve Ersinghaus, story

I want to express my thanks to everyone for their amazing efforts and their fantastic constructions. I think it’s going to take quite a bit of time to digest the totality, from Carianne’s infinite stuffings of things that should not be lost, to Susan Ersinghaus’s … at the moment I don’t understand the nature of honesty… to John Timmons’s 090810, to Susan Gibb’s Have You Heard the One About.

On my end, the project was about 100 stories in 100 consecutive days; it was about the physical act of writing every day with a specific goal. Every morning for 100 days I’d make coffee and sit down and write, and on the difficult days I banged and put up what came. When nothing comes, the trick is to extend and grab and go with the craziest idea you can imagine. I ended with The Receiver and began with The Backups, which seems a very long time ago. Out of the hundred, the types are many: mainstream fictions, stories about monsters and time travel; science fictions, horror fictions, and even some dabbling into mystery and thriller; and there were the parodies and the dips into surrealistic play. There were some formal and voice experiments. Withal, things got written that wouldn’t have been written without the project frame, which was to force the issue for 100 Days.

I wanted to write interesting pieces that were by definition “stories,” meaning that they introduced a problem and then resolved (not solved) the problem, developed character, and had an act or arc structure. But, best of all, I wanted to push my ideas, go places I hadn’t imagined the day before, and engage people who are interesting, strange, and dangerous.

Many of the characters recurred: Computer Leon, for example, Cruz and Maricela, and Pelgram. Many settings recurred: the desert, the city. Many of the themes: flight, technology, and fear.

There are some conclusions to make. I have no one method for developing a story, as each story will be different. Sometimes, as in Computer Leon, the premise drove the story. In my town, we have these lawn signs that advertise a certain computer person. How the story would resolve was a mystery, but when it did resolve, the resolution was tied to the premise. In another case, an image drove the story and the resolution of the story was tied to the image, thus came The Image, which was a story driven by an interpretation of an image I saw in a book my wife happened to be reading. Other times, as in The Night, I had the impulse to write something treating fear, and the outcome haunts me, as in this story nothing can be done to save the child, as the conditions of the story prevent this. The Night is surreal and horror.

And so, what the writer should do to write a story depends on the story being written. However, there are certain technical similarities. Typically, the stories that did not get posted faded to abstraction or I lost interest in the plot or the character. However, most of the successful stories were written quickly, without a lot of interruption, and the images, dialogue, and plots held firm. Brief, compact images are what I like to write, even though the story may be long or short, poetic images that rely on a compressed phrasing and grammar, not long descriptions of things or events, which is a technique I’ve acquired over time, heavily influenced by poetry and writers like Borges and Alice Munro.

Now, and over the course of the Fall, I’ll be using Tinderbox to study the output, to link commonalities, and to hunt down hidden elements.


2 responses to “Completed, 100 Days”

  1. Jeremy says:

    Hey Steve,

    I want to congratulate you and everyone else on the 100 Days project. That is quite an achievement, and you should all be proud.

  2. DT says:

    Hey Steve,

    I want to congratulate you and everyone else on the 100 Days project. That is quite an achievement, and you should all be proud.