Author's Note: I went to the Coeur d'Alene library to write and forgot my headphones. Although, you'll start to figure that out pretty quick. I was facing a story deadline (still haven't met it) and practicing methods for Story 3 for my Creative Writing class. There's some experimental writing--some attempt at pushing the reader out, some attempt at first person, some at metafiction (addressing the reader themselves, pointing out the writing as a piece of fiction, etc). It's messy. It's stream of consciousness. And it's 1,979 words! I'm not even going to pretend you'll like it, but you know how I like to keep a record of these things, so here it is:
Beginning, middle, end
Challenge my conventions
But not all of them.
Write it first then go back and change it?
A short story
Start off in the Fantasy setting of my blood mages…
...end with focusing on Malisyn's acceptance of something
Just kind of fall off the deep end of her broken mind.
Inspiration from the Japanese writer, closer to Neo-Post-Modernism
Do I want this to be about Malisyn and Allyn?
Malisyn and Nox?
Malisyn and a demon?
What question do I want to ask? What question does Malisyn want to ask?
Start at the end? Margaret Atwood style, “Now that I'm dead, I know everything.”
I know Malisyn, I can write Malisyn; I don't even have to describe her, Allyn or Nox. The demon is worth describing because he is intensely inhuman.
“I don't think you understand how this works,” Malisyn said, looking at you.
“Yes, I'm talking to you.” She watched as the reader stumbled over her words and wondered how to pronounce her name. “It's MAL-a-sin,” she said slowly, waiting for them to keep up.
What question do I want to answer with this story, and how can I manage it? Very carefully.
I want to question death, or question a woman's place in society. I want to convince the reader that the real monsters in the world are people, and they do not change. Do not forgive people.
He said not to consider these kinds of things in the first draft though. So write the damn story, beginning, middle, end as I usually would. Then go back and fuck it up.
Do I take it back to fantasy or move forward with modern Malisyn and Nox? Is this my time to try and convince myself and others that THIS NEW WEIRDNESS is the new ME?
I can't force myself to speak in my new Literary Voice on such short notice (even if I've technically had like four weeks, I only just realized what my new voice was trying to say last week).
Yes I can, don't be lazy. Or afraid. Just think of a story, write a fucking outline, and DO THIS. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE, ISN'T IT?
“Stop fucking around.”
Why is it that as soon as I go to move my parked car and come back—three small children have entered the Library, two others have taken over where I was previously sitting (around the corner from a very dirty homeless man), and the new table I'm at has the world's nosiest lamp (the lampshade vibrates from me typing on the keyboard)? I forgot my damn headphones at home. Otherwise the library is very quiet. Except for the children. And the woman with the noisy computer mouse to my left. And this fucking lampshade.
It's a beautiful day outside, but I don't care about the weather. All I can think about is my Photography project that I'm dreadfully behind on and how I have to squeeze in some photographs tonight as soon as the lighting improves. I'm thankful my other school projects aren't all due tomorrow. Just my writing one, the one that should be second nature to me (if I were that pompous), but somehow I still believe this shit should go from my brain to the keyboard smoothly and that just isn't how reality works. I should have started this fucking story a few weeks ago and I didn't. And now here I am. 21 hours before the story is due with zero words written and zero story concept. I have some notes in my English notebook but guess what—it ain't here (it's at home). Do I pack up, go home, find my binder? Or do I just keep rattling on until I figure out what story I want to write?
[look through the notes on my phone, finally open FocusWriter]
I hate short stories.
Sunlight reflected from the orange-blue surface of the ocean. Each wave was a dagger straight to her heart. Each sound of wave against rock, of sea foam against sand, every lonely seagull calling to the approaching night--each was another cut. The sound of the world hurt her. She was laid out, emotions raw and chaffing. She stared down at the burnt-orange depths of the ocean. Somewhere beneath those frigid waters--
This sounds awful. Let’s try again.
Imagine some of that old VHS tape feedback, if you can, and the slippery sound of mylar running through a cassette. Give me some white noise and grain around the edges of your imagination. Press rewind. Hear it click.
Imagine the sunlight hurts your eyes as it reflects off the distant ocean horizon. That the sound of the waves roars in your ears. That the salt in the air weighs heavily upon your skin. Brush off your shoulders, feel that grime sink in deep. The beauty and filth of the ocean. Have you ever been there? Me either. But we can imagine it together, that’s the power of the words you’re reading now.
Now that I have your attention, let me try again.
What would you call this, a journal? A recording? It’s my memories, not yours, but they’re going to feel like it for a bit. This isn’t going to be pleasant. Life rarely is and this is exactly what this story is about: my life. Not yours. Who cares about you (you should, no one else does) anyway?
That may have sounded a little selfish.
Back to the ocean.
That seagull is watching you.
Don’t be alarmed. Or maybe you should. Have you noticed yet that you are a seagull? Look down. No, wait. Don’t look down, you have to keep reading. You’re a seagull who really likes to read. Apparently.
This is fucked up. Watch your language. Or watch mine. What kind of seagull uses language like that? What kind of seagull uses any language?
The kind that has experienced a few dozen reincarnations, if you must know. Last time, I was that ocean wave and most of the Pacific. Let me tell you: there’s a lot of time for retrospect in the afterlife.
I feel like someone put a gun to my head and said, “Write. Your life depends on it.” I really feel like my pride and my credibility as an author may suddenly depend on my ability to meet deadlines. I should be more concerned about the fact that when someone says “write!” that I can’t just start writing. I can, as you see above, manage something. But managing something of quality is going to take some work. What do I need to start my story? An outline? A plan? More than 20 hours left in my clock? I think a lack of time gives me excellent motivation but that’s shit without excellent ideas to follow it.
I feel uncomfortable writing “weird” fiction. I’m weird enough in real life. I don’t want to let it ruin my writing, too. I like writing Fantasy and Science Fiction and funny, weird... no, just funny stuff. Maybe a little weird but usually only in terms of content, not style. I have a set writing style: free indirect style (third person, 1-2 head hopper). I’ve been asked to break all the conventions that I said were mine: that style, the Fantasy/Sci-Fi setting, the strong female character. I may have been more precise but my list is at home and I’m still at the library trying to figure shit out.
I know enough to know that I shouldn’t be worrying about any of this weirdness in my first draft. I can’t let it preoccupy me or stall my progress. But what am I doing at this exact moment? Freaking out over how to make a story weird when I don’t even have the story yet. If I had to take a note from author James V. Smith (“The Writer’s Little Helper”): keep writing as if you have already made the changes. For example, my main character’s name is Malisyn. If I suddenly want it to be Meghan, I’ll write Meghan going forward with a little note to go back and change the names. I would not stop and take the time to “Find > Replace All > Malisyn to Meghan. Except, in my brain, right now, at this exact moment: that is exactly what I’m fucking doing. I’ve managed to injure my self-esteem, my confidence, in to believing that I have to make these kinds of conscious decisions before I even fucking sit down to write. This is what they meant by education ruining my literary voice! They meant it will change how I think, how I do my proccess, and now I can’t fucking deny it. I am witnessing myself frozen with insecurity, unable to write a damn good story because it’s outside of my comfort zone and I have to do weird shit to get there. Sounds like any good sex life, including my own.
It’s OK though. I know I can do this. It’s all about just making a decision on what kind of story I want to write and the fucking writing it.
“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” - Ernest Hemingway (so sayeth the internet)
My mind is turning over ideas in my head: I had one story idea that was going to be a cross-over of “The Lottery” and “1984” and a frothing, angry story about if a certain tupee’d man becomes the President of the United States. Let’s say he fulfills even 25% of the crazy ideas he’s suggested. I have Twitter and news feeds at my disposal, and comedians (the best source of news for me). The idea was that in the future (although it would take longer than 8 years to fuck up this story to this degree), every household in the country (that presumably pays taxes and is a legal citizen) has a Suggest-o-Tron installed. It is now illegal to “cut the cord” that powers the display screen. Once a week, or once a month, government vehicles appear at the end of the streets where citizens can “safely and anonymously” surrender any sharp objects they may have made, found or otherwise acquired. Rewards are offered for those who turn in their unpatriotic brothers and sisters.
The Suggest-o-Tron claims to be non-intrusive but it is every citizen’s duty to participate in the daily, weekly and monthly voting procedures. Everything from which families to evict to which blocks go without water for a few days. Something slightly evil and it matches citizens against citizens, families against families.
The story opens with a young white boy or girl watching their ethnic neighbors fighting with the police and their entire family getting rounded up into a vehicle. They’re now labor workers being sent to help build “The Wall.” The wall intended to keep all foreigners out, built by foreigners. The family will never be heard from again. Slowly and slowly, the nation becomes a race of white skinned Christians with no tolerance for homosexuals, the poor, the non-white.
The story follows the slow progress of a man who, desperate to get free of the Suggest-o-Tron that he believes records his every movement--begins to physically chew through the cable himself. The story would end when, after months of slow progress, he finally chews through the cable--only to electrocute himself and die. He did, technically, get free from the Suggest-o-Tron!
Maybe the man didn’t want to vote anymore. Maybe the scheduled vote for the night of his death was to determine if he himself would be executed. How ironic that he so feverishly was against voting and or harming another person that he was willing to risk physical harm and incarceration to uphold his beliefs... and died for it.