Story Notes

Story Notes – The world of her own making

13coverimage

My story ‘The world of her own making’ was published recently in A cappella Zoo (Issue 14) and I was so excited.

To read the story just head A cappella Zoo and order up Issue 14.

Because I love to know about the origins of a story from the writer’s perspective, I thought I would share some notes about this story with you.

Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers in the story notes below. So if you want to read the story with fresh eyes check it out first at A cappella Zoo before reading the notes.

About ‘The world of her own making’

I love origin myths; the expansiveness of the claims and the simplifying of all the complexity of the universe into something completely human centric. Our gods are so often personifications of us, with all of our most basic (and sometimes terrible) traits; jealousy, lust, rage, hunger. Any origin myth we’ve conjured up is such a great indication of our humanity—our desire to connect with something bigger than us, our wish for the simplicity of a god-like figure.

I wanted to write a story of a girl who ate the world and naturally, as I was writing it, it turned into an origin story. A new world from the old, not something from nothing but something born from a normal girl who simply got hungry.

I can’t imagine a universe where something comes from nothing. I think ultimately that makes me a believer in an infinite multi-verse which has its own issues but I like the idea of a new universe coming from something pre-existing because a lone god in an empty void creating all of existence is even more confusing and definitely less science-friendly.

I liked being able to really get into the texture of things in this story, assigning common tastes to objects that aren’t meant to be eaten and I enjoyed the ultimate grandeur of the tale. I guess thoughts of the universe are never far from my mind because they creep into my writing at any given opportunity.

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Story Notes – Double Stuffed Oreo

Image

My story ‘Double Stuffed Oreo’ was published on Friday on ExFic.  It’s a great site with some amazing surreal stories and poems and I was thrilled to be included.

To read the story just head on over to ExFic and have a gander!

Because I love to know about the origins of a story from the writer’s perspective, I thought I would share some notes about this story with you.

Spoiler Alert:  There are spoilers in the story notes below.  So if you want to read the story with fresh eyes check it out first at ExFic before reading the notes.

About ‘Double Stuffed Oreo’

When I first started writing in earnest I decided to write a story a day based on prompts by Sarah Selecky.  It was a great way to get the ball rolling and come up with quick ideas that sometimes turned into something more.  So Double Stuffed Oreo is one of my first stories and it was based on a prompt that suggested a format similar to a story published in the New Yorker awhile back called Here We Aren’t, So Quickly.   

Double Stuffed Oreo was entirely stream of consciousness and it started with the iconic cookie because Ben and I had just been eating them.  I chose to start and end on the cookie because I wanted the story to feel as though an entire wild relationship had transpired between bites, a whole life in a moment.

What I love about the story is that each line holds a brand new story.  I loved it so much in fact that I started to build other stories out of each of the individual lines.  So now I have stories to match the following lines:

I sank my teeth into a stone and it cracked.
You blew the stars out like candles, but it wasn’t your birthday.
You didn’t know how to ease my pain, so you cast a circle made of earth.
I learned to speak dove and cooed over a lunch of bird seed and pink cupcakes.
I put a tag on an empty bottle and sold it as enlightenment.

I have plans to write a poem, story, micro-fiction or list for each of the lines in this story and eventually make them into a book.  It’s a bit ambitious, but I think I can eventually pull it off.  

I love writing surreal and magic realism and I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I loved writing it! 

Uncategorized

My Agent Wish List

ImageSince I decided to apply myself to my burgeoning career as a writer I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of agents.  How to get an agent, what an agent can do for you, why bother to have an agent etc… I made the choice to pursue the traditional path of publishing because I’m brand new to the whole writing world and I wanted to find someone who knows more than I can read on the internet to guide me.

Now, for obvious reasons, agents aren’t easy to come by.  There’s the querying, then the sending the pages, then the anticipation and long waits.  But in a lot of cases once you get accepted into Agentland it seems like a pretty good place to be.  However, I have heard some horror stories, tales of neglect and being cheated, of communication breakdowns and other issues relating to writers and their agents.

In all the talk of getting an agent, the breathless hoping and the crossed fingers, I don’t often hear about people setting expectations for their agent.  In fact, more often than not, it seems to be the other way around.  Perhaps it’s the scarcity of the acceptance letters that keep writers from being realistic and business-minded about the prospect of getting an agent’s attention, but the more I dip my toe in the waters of the agent sea, the more I try to solidify my own expectations and form a wish list of my own for finding a good agent match.

I’m an entrepreneur.  I’ve been in business for myself for probably around eight years now and I find that has helped me to understand what it is I’m looking for in a business partner.  Because that’s what an agent is, a business partner.  Agents are the people who will represent you in the publishing world, they are the people who will help you make money and they are the people who will champion your work just as much as you will champion it yourself.  As a writer, you are definitely an artist, but you are also a business person running your own small business and I find it helps me to see it as such.  Because I don’t want just anyone to join my business, do you?

You can learn a certain amount about an agent through internet searches and websites, but the real trick is getting to know them (if they like your work enough to give you a call or offer representation).  It’s at that point when you have a choice.  You don’t just have to jump into business with the first person who likes you, although it may be tempting after all that longing and waiting.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and figure out if the agent you are in contact with is the right fit for you and your work.

Agents often have wish lists, books they want to represent or topics they are interested in (which you can generally find in their interviews or on their websites), but as writers I think it’s important that we do too.  As I spend more time in the industry, meet people and do my research, I try to narrow down my own agent wish list to the most important points.  So in the future when I (hopefully) get the chance to work with an agent, I’ll know what I’m looking for.

Here’s my agent wish list:

Good Communication – Communication is key for any good business partnership.  Can I be honest with this person?  Can I ask them questions?  Do they respond in a timely manner to my communications?  Are they willing to be honest with me?  Do we have a good flow to our communications?

Shared Literary Interests – Although I have a style and a general tone to my work (typically magic realism), sometimes I like to experiment.  I want an agent who enjoys all of my work and is interested in a bit of diversity of style, genre and format.

Open Minded – Most of my main characters tend to be bisexual.  I sometimes write books about sex and drugs (not always, but it happens).  I need an agent who is open to LGBT characters and the idea of things getting a little racy.

Hands-On Industry Guidance – I’m a publishing noob but I’m totally willing to work my ass of to make my career a reality.  I’m looking for someone who wants to work with me to help me learn the ropes of the industry.

Passion – I’m crazy passionate about things I dedicate myself to.  Sometimes to the point of insanity.  I need an agent who is just as passionate and excited as I am, because I want to feel the shared love for the work.

Sense of Humour – I like my business partners like I like my friends, with a sense of humour about things.  Life’s too short to take things too seriously and I want to know that I can have a laugh with someone I’m going to work closely with!

That’s pretty much it.  I guess it’s not a lot to ask for, but I’m sure there are agents out there who will fit that criteria and those who won’t.  But when it comes time to decide I don’t want to settle for someone who won’t be a good long term business partner, I don’t think any writer should!

Writers – Do you have an agent wish list?  Feel free to share!
Agents – What are your thoughts on writers having wish lists? Do you have wish lists of your own?

Uncategorized

You can’t spell Urban Fantasy without exposition

Gonsalves_HouseByTheRailroad

I used to think I liked Urban Fantasy, but now I’m not so sure.

I like the concept.  A world of magic and mystery just beneath our own, adventures in the city where mythical creatures come to life and secrets unravel.  It all sounds so exciting in theory.

So I’ve been reading some Urban Fantasy of late, because I thought I had written an Urban Fantasy novel.  A girl hitchiking from Toronto to California, encountering subtle magic and finding the magic in herself, sounds pretty UF right?  Apparently not.  I am missing one important factor in my novel to make it Urban Fantasy it seems, exposition.

Whether it’s Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’, Doyce Testerman’s ‘Hidden Things’ or TV’s ‘Lost Girl’, they all share one important feature, massive amounts of exposition.  I have to admit I had to put down American Gods because it was too obvious for my tastes, I like my magic subtle.  What possessed me to finish Hidden Things I can’t say as it was pretty unbearable, but I did get it from the library which provides a magic motivator for me to get through it as it won’t stick around forever.  In terms of Lost Girl we gave up on it in the second season as we felt they were treating us like morons by explaining every last bit of what was going on.

So what is it about Urban Fantasy that inspires people to hand hold and spell out absolutely everything?  Shouldn’t it be obvious to readers/watchers that magical creatures are coming to life without having to say it aloud?  Do we really need to explain the fundamental magical underpinnings of reality in all its convoluted detail?

It turns out I don’t really like Urban Fantasy all that much, I like Magic Realism.  Although the differences could be debated eternally, to me it’s about the obviousness of the magic and the use of magic as metaphor.  The magic in Urban Fantasy seems to take a front seat, becoming the star of the show, whereas with Magic Realism it becomes a part of the backdrop, an element mixed in to add flavour and metaphorical meaning to the world and the lives of the characters.  The magic in Magic Realism is typically accepted, without need for endless explanation and exposition, it just is.

I don’t want the magic of the universe to slap me in the face, proclaim its awesomeness and try to show me how clever and inventive it is.  I want it to support the cast or characters, add meaning, metaphor and a bit of mystery.  I want to fill in the blanks myself, not have some over-explain-y character do it for me.  I want to use my imagination to create the connections, to do the work.  I believe that sometimes there are things that are better left unsaid.

Another problem with exposition in books where mystery is a strong component is obscurity.  The balance of explanation and obscurity can be hard to strike without just being plain annoying.  For example, in Hidden Things the main character had a ‘guide’ to the world of magic, but there were many things that the guide refused to explain.  So we got part of the story and the rest was written off as ‘something unexplainable’ by the guide.  He obfuscated, confused and tried to act mysterious and because of this it simply came off as annoying.  You can’t have it both ways, you’re either explaining it all or you’re not, but to try and walk the line is just unbelievably obnoxious.

I don’t do exposition.  The magic in my novel just is.  It is only very occasionally remarked upon by the protagonist, but overall it’s just a part of the world, like traffic and streetlights and fresh cut grass.  This leads me to believe that my story is not actually fully Urban Fantasy, but Magic Realism with a hint of UF.  I’m certainly open to other interpretations though.

So at the end of the day I feel like all the exposition in UF ruins the mood for me.  I don’t want to know exactly how and why magic is there, sometimes it’s just enough that it is.  I’d love to read more UF with a Magic Realism slant, but I’m not entirely sure how to look for that.  I don’t want my hand held or some character yapping in my ear telling me about the veil between worlds or the hierarchy of gods, I don’t want all the secrets unravelled for me.

I haven’t read a load of UF, so I certainly can’t comment on every book out there, but there seems to be a growing trend in the things I’ve read and watched that I’d like to veer away from.

Have any suggestions for more Magic Realism based UF?  Think I’m dead wrong about exposition?  Let me know!