Saturday, March 4, 2017

Little Things

Going from writing novels to writing a collection of flash fiction and micro-essays is a bit of a transition, but I have to say, it's one I'm thoroughly enjoying.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still stewing on The Man in Question.  I have little bits of ideas floating around in my brain for it and every now and then one of them gets dressed up enough to be tangible and gets written down.  But it's fun to work on little things for a change, to pare everything down to its bones – because they're still stories, complete little microcosms...they just deal a lot less in the exact dimensions of things and what people eat for breakfast.  And writing them makes you think very hard about what is important (as in, absolutely indispensable) about the story you're telling, as well as about how to make people see things without necessarily talking about them.  It's also scary, because it's much harder to hide incompetence when you only have a line or a paragraph to do it in.  If you flub one line in every twenty pages of a three hundred page novel, most people will forgive you, but if you flub one word in a flash fiction story it's like getting a giant zit on your face on the day of a photo shoot.  So it's a challenge, which makes it scary and stressful...but it also makes it fun.

It also feels much more like a collaboration, between me and the illustrator, of course (more about her later, because she's awesome!) but also between me and the reader.  One of the greatest beauties of creative work, in my opinion, whether it's written or painted or danced or played, is the power it has to call up different images, different emotions, depending on who the audience is, what time of life they are in, what their mood is at that moment.  Books that meant one thing to me as a child mean an entirely different thing now.  I sympathize with different characters, or I understand things at a different level, or in a different way.  I'm not the first person to point this out, but in that way a story is never really finished until it has been read, and as a writer you have to learn to relinquish control at a certain point, you have to realize that nobody is going to see exactly what you see, and that that's okay, that it's even beautiful.  Writing flash fiction, I feel that loss of control is expanded as the word count shrinks, and the stories start to work merely as little triggers to the imagination, or at least I hope they do.

Among the little things I'm including a smattering of fairy tales of sorts.  In my mind I think of them as little episodes of Fairy Tale Characters Thinking Outside the Box, which, now that I think about it, would make a great television series (I see it as a weird sort of unreality show, but with the surreality and humor of the fantastic Gaiman/McKean/Henson collaborative film Mirrormask – "I shall slip unnoticed through the darkness... like a dark, unnoticeable slippy thing.")...  Anyway, I get to play with aspects of classic fairy tales that always bothered me, which is fun, and I have to do it in very few words, which is hard.

I also get to work with the ridiculously talented Traci Manley, who is doing the illustrations.  When I decided to do a book I thought of Traci's style was the only thing I could see to go with it.  I'm so glad she's agreed.  I've only seen a couple sketches so far, but I eagerly anticipate the rest.


Once, on a chilly night, a poor boy rubbed a magic lamp – and out popped a Jinn.
“You must be cold without a shirt,” said the boy, and he gave the Jinn his ragged jacket.
Now they travel the world together, granting wishes and telling stories.

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