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

Writing is writing

FullSizeRender

Things have been crazy because I just started school again and when I meet up with other writers they ask me if I’ve been writing lately.


And I say yes.

But I hesitate. Why do I hesitate? Because I’ve been writing loads, just not fiction. I’ve been blogging a lot about my experiences at school over at my Cosmorphosis blog and it’s been extremely rewarding and fascinating, but there’s some tiny part of me that believes writing = writing fiction.


This is clearly a flawed thought and I have no idea where it comes from. Non-fiction is obviously a valid and important form of writing, from news to memoirs, sharing stories of the real world and our own lives is extremely valuable.

But it’s not fiction.

I think the moment I really committed to writing fiction was the same moment I officially committed to being a writer. Even though I had been writing non-fiction and travel memoirs for years, for some reason I only decided to take the moniker of writer when fiction was my focus.

It’s not a good, healthy thought. Writing is writing and all of it is great.

Whether it’s tweeting, blogging, writing a book, a poem, a single line or even a lab report (which I did for the first time ever this week), writing is important and meaningful because it’s all just various forms of expression. I can find the joy in any one of those forms, as evidenced by the fact that I loved writing the lab report.



I don’t want to limit myself to the form of fiction for my expression and I don’t think anyone should. As a writer, a creator of art, my focus will change throughout my life and as someone who considers herself open-minded and well suited for change I want to embrace that and proudly proclaim my love of self expression, no matter what form it comes in.

Story Notes

Story Notes – Leadership Camp

Leadership Camp

My story ‘Leadership Camp’ was published recently at Maudlin House and I was so honoured to be included with all the other wonderful stories in Issue 5!

To read the story just head on over to Maudlin House and check it out!

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 Maudlin House before reading the notes.

About ‘Leadership Camp’

This story was inspired by a call for submissions for a local Toronto anthology looking for stories with the subject ’20 Somethings Going Nowhere’. My story didn’t make it into the anthology but I’m actually happy about that because it found an amazing home at Maudlin House!

The truth is I don’t usually write stories with large casts. I find too many people hard to manage and I have a bit of a distaste for dialogue tags and try to avoid them whenever I can. Usually I stick to smaller interactions between one or two people, but this theme (in my mind) called for an ensemble so I wanted to give it a try. I tried a minimal style because I wanted it to be as dialogue heavy as possible (sort of like a script)—partly for the challenge and also because I thought the situation called for it.


A zombie apocalypse just popped into my head and honestly I usually try to avoid writing about apocalypse scenarios as much as possible because I worry they will come across as cliche. But as Ben always says, the most interesting thing about a zombie film is the interactions between the living. So I tried to focus on that and I think it turned out pretty well in the end (although the character’s actual fate is up to you to decide).

(Image by: Miquela Davis – miquelacomics.tumblr.com)

Random

Writers are not their characters

FullSizeRender

When I was younger I used to write all the time. Then I got sucked into a terrible relationship and I stopped writing. Aside from being clinically depressed and being made to feel worthless on the whole in the relationship, the real reason I stopped writing was because the people I was involved with believed that every character I created was a representation of me. They used my characters against me. Every time a character in one of my stories did something wrong, I was blamed. If I wrote a character they perceived as sexist, I was sexist. If they thought a character was irresponsible or thoughtless, I was too. They focussed on the negative every time and slowly chipped away at my self-esteem until I just gave up on writing altogether because I was so terrified my characters would make a mistake and I would be found guilty.

It was a shitty way to live.

Now that I’m free of that relationship I’ve taken up writing again full force, but the thought that I’m intimately connected to my characters still lingers and sometimes it scares me so much I’m tempted not to explore taboos or subjects that could be seen as ‘risky’.

I sometimes get scared, but then I push on through with the mantra of ‘I am not my characters’.

As a writer it is vital to distinguish yourself from your characters, or else you’ll take on the burden of their mistakes and be tempted to keep your writing in a safe zone. But writing, and art in general, is not about being safe. It’s about taking risks, putting yourself out there and exploring the deep dark places where other people won’t go. As an artist I feel I have both the privilege and responsibility to rip myself open and show my inner conflicts to the world. Through our artists, humanity has the chance to examine ourselves and others and that is so important. Sometimes I hate my characters and disagree with them, but I write them anyway because art should be a place to explore anything and everything that’s in your mind.

Lately though, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of people out there who think in the way I was conditioned to think: that writers are their characters. I’ve seen writers torn to pieces by politically correct activists because they dared to explore something that was taboo or because they presented a sensitive situation in what others consider ‘a wrong light’. Some people seem to hold the opinion that writers are personally responsible for the views of their characters. If a character in a novel or TV show is sexist, racist, homophobic, weak, stereotypical or any number of other perceived issues, then the writer is directly to blame and clearly holds all of the same values or flaws as their protagonists.

This is wrong.

If this was really true, why wouldn’t more writers be personally lauded for creating wonderful, heroic characters? When was the last time you heard a review of a book that included the idea that the writer personally must be a true hero because they wrote an amazing character? It never happens.

If this was true wouldn’t every murder mystery writer be a psychopath?

We can’t just cherry pick what traits an artist gets endowed with because we’re angry or upset about a certain piece of art.

My (unverified psychological) theory is that people look for the bad before they look for the good and when they find the bad they want a scapegoat, someone to blame for the fact that they’re upset or don’t agree with something a character has done. But unfortunately this is just a quick, easy way to alienate writers and make them scared to explore concepts or look at angles that might not otherwise see the light of day.

As a society we need our writers and artists to feel free to express themselves without fear of personal attack. We need them to plumb the depths of their souls and expose their dark places without a band of angry villagers with torches and pitchforks banging down their door. We need to adjust our view of fiction to see it for what it is: a fictional story with fictional characters.

Sure we can infer things about writers from what they chose to write, but to make assumptions and rage against the individual for making a piece of art and being brave enough to put it out there is nothing but a subtle form of personalized censorship. We should be better than that. We should understand that fiction is not necessarily indicative of a person’s beliefs and disagree with the characters and their actions instead of the writer who created them. Criticize the art not the artist.

Writers are not their characters and it’s a dangerous thing for the freedom of art to suggest they are. If we condemn our artists for their creations they might stop creating altogether, like I did once upon a time, and then where would we be?

Story Notes

Story Notes: The Same

IMG_2134

My story ‘The Same’ was recently published in The Quilliad. I was so happy to be included in the publication and also to get the chance to read with some other fabulous writers at their Halloween launch party.

To read the story just head on over to The Quilliad and order a copy of the magazine!

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 The Quilliad before reading the notes.

About ‘The Same’

At the reading I introduced The Same as an existential horror story inspired by the roving gangs of teenage girls who prowl the streets of my neighbourhood, and I would definitely stand by that description.

A funny thing happened at the reading of this story though, one of the other writers (also a fellow reader that evening) came up to me and told me she found my story to be very sympathetic (given the subject matter), and her words struck me.  I had never before considered my attitude towards my characters to be particularly sympathetic but once I thought about it I realized in a way, I am.

The Same is definitely meant as a comment on individuality (or lack thereof) and the trend these girls seem to follow of blending seamlessly into one another.  For me individuality has always been important, something to aspire to.  I’ve always wanted to stand out and trying to fit in (so much so that you find yourself look and talking the same as everyone else) has always been a mystery to me.  So what do I do with mysteries?  Write about them.  And the more I write about something or someone, the more I step into their shoes (or Uggs in this case).  I find myself (often unwittingly) creating sympathetic conditions for them and in the effort to get to know them in my story I find myself feeling as though I’ve gotten to know them in the real world.

I’ve done it before when writing about real world subjects; the woman in my building who talks to her dog, loudly and incessantly; the man asleep under a down comforter on the beach; the blob of orange goo on the sidewalk in Chinatown.  Once I write about a thing it becomes a part of me, I build a connection with it and in that connection I find a point of sympathy, or more accurately empathy.

Maybe if people wrote more about the things that confused them or even pissed them off we’d have a more sympathetic, understanding world.

Story Notes

Story Notes: The Giver

Subway

My story ‘The Giver’ was published this week in Bitterzoet Magazine.  There were so many wonderful stories and poems in this issue of Bitterzoet and I was totally honoured to be included.

To read the story just head on over to Bitterzoet and check it out!

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 Bitterzoet before reading the notes.

About ‘The Giver

This story came from the idea that every little bit we do makes a difference; a smile, a kind word, a small confession.  Even the tiniest things can make a huge difference in someone’s day, or even their lives.

 I often walk around feeling like I’m insulated, like I’m living life in a vacuum.  It’s so easy to forget or not even realize the impact I have on others.  But by looking at the impact others have on me, I can extrapolate, calculate the possibility that when I make eye contact on the subway, say hi to a stranger, offer a bit of my attention, it does make a difference.

I don’t want to live in a world where we are all alone, where our actions don’t have consequences.  The girl in ‘The Giver’ offered bits of herself, seemingly inconsequential, in order to provide a larger inspiration, or a sort of relief to the world around her.

Ultimately, I think that’s what I strive for in my writing, and maybe all writers do.  Offering a bit of ourselves so everyone else can remember they’re not alone.

Inspiration Series

Inspiration Series – Star Spider

LightBulb InspireFinal

It’s taken me a long time to write this post because although I find inspiration insanely interesting, I think the truth is I’m a little scared of it. It’s so skittish I sometimes feel that if I speak too loud I’ll scare it away. It’s an almost superstitious relationship I have with my inspiration even though I’m not usually a superstitious person. Inspiration makes me want to knock on wood, carry a lucky charm, cross my fingers. I feel like my inspiration is a thing that’s not really a part of me, even though that’s a ludicrous notion.

The idea of inspiration is completely fascinating to me. I often wonder why it takes the shapes it does. How can one person be lyrically inspired while another is more visual? Where does inspiration come from? Is it just our minds solving problems in an artistic way or is there something more at work—some divine muse perhaps? Probably not.

My inspiration is definitely skittish. I’m a one-trick-at-a-time pony. I work hard to find stories and once I have them I wrestle with them until they take shape, become a real thing. Then I write them and BAM, they’re done and it’s almost as if they were never mine in the first place. It’s a fleeting relationship.

I say I work hard to find my stories and it’s the truth, but I probably shouldn’t. Some studies suggest that inspiration is more of an unbidden experience, that it just happens when you’re open and observing, and I find that to be completely true. Most of my stories sneak up behind me when I’m not looking, but even still I can’t relax enough to wait for them. I get impatient and start searching and that just stresses me out and probably slows down the whole process. It’s just who I am though—impatient for inspiration.

As for finding stories, they live everywhere. I find most of them outside on long, meandering thinky kind of walks. They hide in corners and they tend to only take form when I look at them directly. My stories exist in a quantum state, subject to the observer effect.

Stories are like sacred objects—meaningless until we fill in the blanks, assign them a mythology. Nothing in the world ever started out as anything of specific significance, but when we humans get our hands on things we tend to try to make them profound. Humans are great for making the mundane sacred. And that’s all a story is; a moment, a concept or an object made profound by a writer.

I constantly struggle with my inspiration and every time I finish a story or a novel I tell myself I won’t push the next idea. I’ll keep myself open and just let it come to me. But that never works for long, I get stressed about my lack of inspiration and go looking. Sometimes I’m fruitful and sometimes I just depress myself. I guess I have an artistic temperament—ever the tortured soul searching for my next sacred story.

Inspiration is an amazing thing but it can also be insanely frustrating.

So I’ll just have to cross my fingers and wish on a star that my next story finds me before I have to go out looking for it.