Published 28 Sep 2017
For some people, people who do not necessarily claims themselves to be writers, writing can be quite difficult; particularly, when they are asked to conjure up a five to six page story in a short matter of days. Unlike the gifted few, who see the keyboard, as the tool in constructing their story, others struggle, wrestling between ideas, characters, settings, plot, motif, and climax. Then there are those, who simply choose to look to their everyday lives for inspiration (after all, one writes best when they write what they know), a practice that Anne Lamont encourages all writers to employ into their own writing.
In her book, Bird by Bird, Lamont suggests that all writers carry a pad of index cards and whenever an idea comes immediately write it down, or if a person observes an event they might later find to be interesting write it down. In other words, Lamont suggests that the inspirational is found in the common activities of everyday, but it is in the perception of these activities that a story can develop, and it is best to carry on one’s person a pen and paper at all times so that the idea (s) stay fresh, and aren’t forgotten. Therefore if all writers took Lamont’s advice, each person would have written multiple times without even calling themselves a writer. It is in this thought and philosophy of Lamont that I have written my own five-six page story.
As suggested, I carried around a pen and paper with me for days, or weeks, and wrote down everything I found interesting. Thus, inspiration came to me from the most mundane places such as conversations with friends, tv commercials, observing people in their everyday lives. After having written down what I saw to be interesting from the banal world, it was much easier to develop not only my characters Serene and Tina but to also build up their conversation and interaction based on my own observations as well as involvement in the lives of the people closest to me.
Since Lamont said to write what one knows I felt it necessary to build Serene’s character on my own idea of myself since there was no one else in the world whom I knew better. Thus, although Serene is a fictional character she is based largely upon myself. For the character of Tina, while I do not have a cousin by this name, I do have family relations (not surprising I do not get along with all of them) and thus Tina in my story is a conglomeration of bad relations I have with many of my cousins, at one point in time or another.
I did feel it necessary to keep the narrative style of the piece in a third person point of view so that the audience felt that there was no bias in presenting these two characters, as Lamont as Joseph Kelly state, a reader is interested in the truth of a situation and although I know the truth can come to be from fiction through the first person narrative I felt that the third person narrative was more reliable and thus a rapport could be formed from the start with the reader since the story is so short, and a quick bonding would be necessary if the reader was going to have an emotional investment in the character’s lives.
As an amateur writer, Lamont’s advice allowed me to consider several different plots for my omnipresent narrator to where I wanted to incorporate all the different themes and events into my story. At first I began writing freely, different scenes where my narrator was experiencing some of the same incidents and feelings that I did. Before I realized it, my thoughts and emotions were being manifested through my protagonist. As Joseph Kelly puts it, my protagonist became a projection, a projection of myself and what I observed as my friend experienced the event in which I write about.
Thus, the relationship between writer and character is a bit blurred. However, thanks to understanding that writer allows a version of the truth to be told, I felt it necessary to continue my character’s development in this fashion in order to find out where she, and I would end up at the climax of the story.
Most short stories are written at a point of change in a person’s life, and this change often times forces that person to come to a critical point in their lives to re-examine things and to find out their true identity. Perhaps because I felt so close to the protagonist I wanted to put her in a situation where she would be forced to encounter certain aspects of her personality she may not be comfortable with, which would in turn be a reflection of me. This also is backed up by Joseph Kelly’s philosophy on writing.
What I found to be easiest in writing this story with the guidance of Lamont and Kelly was the dialogue. The dialogue was short and to the point, and it always had a location in it (mainly around a table or food, which is a big indicator of my culture). The dialogue was at times jesting, and mostly it was the tension in the words, how they were spoken and the situation in which they were spoken, which I found alluring about this assignment. The contrary natures of the cousins, and the way in which they converse with each other was a main point of interest in the story and it allowed the plot to move forward because it made the reader think: will there be reconciliation, will there be a fight, ostracizing, or even a scandal from which the family will not revive itself? Thus, the dialogue aided the narration of the story because it forced the reader to think about the progression of these two characters, Serene and Tina.
In fact the dialogue and the heat, tension, and general feelings of anger and resentment are prominent in my story. The narration adds to this because it allows the reader to know everyone’s reactions and inner feelings during these dialogues which would not be possible if it had been written in first person, in which the reader would only know the protagonist’s point of view and no one else’s feelings except in them being perceived by the narrator. Thus, when Tina confronts Dr. Silva or Mike in his office about the Paris trip, because of the narration the reader is allowed to see Dr. Silva’s anger toward the prospect of Tina being included in the trip, and his fury at Serene not telling him, as well as Tina’s shock by Dr. Silva’s response to her being at his office and telling him she’s coming to Paris with her cousin. Thus, the reader knows that Mike is frustrated at the prospect of not being alone with Serene an the progression of the plot manifests itself because now the reader knows that Mike had ulterior motives for inviting Serene to Paris because Tina going as well disrupts those plans, thus his anger.
This third person narrative allows the reader to further see that Mike Silva’s composure crumbles in Paris when most of his plans are thwarted by the presence of Tina and not getting conjoining rooms at the hotel. The choice of third person narrative in my short story permitted me to re-examine certain aspects of my own character. As both Lamont and Kelly state, when a writer writes the truth, often times they are shocked to discover that their writing has revealed to them a hidden truth about themselves. This is true in my writing this story. The pressures of family, or irritating cousins and misinterpretations were my own self discovery in writing this story. With these two protagonist cousins I discovered a new aspect of myself.
In narrating this story in the third person I found that change is possible, for the characters in my story and that real life reconciliation with family members can occur, even without a climax in the story as is sometimes necessary in fiction.
- Kelly, Joseph. (2005). “The Seagull Reader”. W.W. Norton &Company. New York.
- Lamont, Anne. (1995). “Bird by Bird”. Anchor. New York.