yeah write #120 weekly writing challenge is open for submissions: personal essays, traditional blog anecdotes, 31dbbb review posts

yeah write #120 weekly writing challenge is open for submissions: personal essays, traditional blog anecdotes, 31dbbb review posts

yeah write #120 weekly writing challenge is open for submissions: personal essays, traditional blog anecdotes, 31dbbb review posts

I’m writing four blog posts for yeah write, at under 500 words each, and I hope to squeeze in to these 2000 words a version of everything I know about writing. In order to do this, I’m going to discuss how I came to write a story called “Miracle.”

If you’ve read Ron Carlson’s excellent little craft book, Ron Carlson Writes a Story, you know where I’ve gotten the idea to do this. If you haven’t, and you’re someone who’s interested in writing, it is very much worth your time.

Click here for Part One

Click here for Part Two

Click here for Part Three

Part Four

Because I write a lot of flash fictions and/or very short stories, people often ask me how I know when a piece is “done.” While I sometimes feel that nothing I ever write is “finished,” the truth is: for me, a piece is “done” when it becomes meaningful, when it can stand on its own and find some way of resonating.

Whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, this typically happens by way of character.

I said before that when I’m working from real life, I typically have to divorce myself from what’s real so that I can turn the anecdote into something that might be meaningful to people who don’t know me or the people I might be writing about. In “Miracle,” when the narrator flashes forward to the scene in which his brother is telling him about being run over by his own car, the brother becomes not-my-brother*; he becomes a composite of two or three people I’ve known over the years. The recovering crack addict/unfailing optimist I worked with at a homeless shelter, the liquor store employee who once tried to get me to pay cash for my bourbon so that he could charge me a little less than the store’s price and pocket the money.

This way of creating characters has been enormously helpful to me. The way I see it: while we’re all complex beings, capable of a tremendous range of emotions and actions, in actuality, we’re all also stereotypes. We think of ourselves as sons, mothers, liberals, etc. As a writer, I like to layer a set or two of “types” into one character in order to achieve the kinds of complex characters we expect to find in fiction. When doing so, I aim for what might be called believable incongruities.

*A quick note regarding writing about family members, friends, loved ones, etc.: I spent a long time avoiding doing this, fearing I might offend or hurt people. Eventually, I decided that when I want to write about, say, something that happened to my brother, I’m entitled to my rendition of events, my subjective take on things. I would never want to hurt the people in my life via my art, but I also don’t want to live in such a way that I don’t say what I have to say, make what I have to make. A true story about “Miracle”: my brother forgot about the fact he was once run over by his own car until he read the story I wrote about it.

* * * * *

In “Miracle,” I leapt into the future and rolled a little scene, attempting to build the brothers’ characters. In doing so, I created a gap in time, a future for the scene that kicks off the story. I also gave myself a place to return to in the story, an anchor.

I’ve tried to write stories without scenes, but it’s inescapable: scenes are the lifeblood of story, of narrative.

Once I returned to the scene in which the narrator drives to the bar, I was able to find the image of the brother’s friends making a chalk outline of his body on the street in masking tape. At that point, the story became about a desire to connect—the narrator’s wishing he could join the crew in the street—and it was this image, I hoped, that would make the story resonate, that would make its 400 or so words meaningful.

Looking for this week’s challenge? Notes from Erica M

It’s our final prize week during the summer series, so you know we have big plans. Click over to page 2 of this post for details. It is on page 2 you will also find the challenge grid. 

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  • elleroy was here [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 10:49 pm

    Dude! I hear you. I feel you. I’m all over what you’re saying! And I somehow telepathically worked “Dude” into my post without even knowing about the “Dude” thing previously. As Spicolli would say “Woah!” 😉

  • Natalie DeYoung [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 9:14 pm

    Duuuuudddddeeeeee. I totally hear what you’re saying.
    Gosh, that sounds so California.

  • Patti B. (@pattibwrite) [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 10:48 am

    Dude, I totally hear what you’re saying, and I also know it’s perfectly okay to call a woman “dude.” I confirmed this once with my 13 year old son, who then called me “lame.”

    • Patti B. (@pattibwrite) [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 10:50 am

      It’s also okay to call a dude “dude,” which shows I don’t read too carefully after all! heehee

      • Erica M [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 11:04 am

        Chad is the guest editor, but the “dude” section was written by Erica M. You’re good either way.

  • Michelle Longo [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 8:56 am

    Dude, I totally hear what you’re saying, but I *only* took two weeks off and now I can’t get my post to link up and I’m all whiney. Wahhhhh!

    (Seriously though, it says I don’t have a back link. Why does it say this to me? Please help me. I’ll be your best friend…)

    • Erica M [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 9:23 am

      I’ll take care of it once I get to my laptop. You’ll be okay!

      • Michelle Longo [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 9:26 am

        You are so good to me, always coming to my rescue. Thanks.

  • kirsten oliphant [Wed] 31 Jul 13 at 12:40 am

    Dude. DUDE. You don’t need to shout.

    I may be in an area without internet (those exist??) all day Thursday. If I can vote, I’ll vote. I’m trying to visit everyone before I go into the great abyss. Seriously. It’s an abyss.

  • that cynking feeling [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 2:44 pm

    Oops. Dude, I skimmed what you wrote and linked up without making sure I heard what you were saying. But we’re totally good now.

  • christina [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 11:26 am

    duuuude. I totally hear you.

  • Sam Merel [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 9:45 am

    Dude, I totally get it.

  • Arden [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 8:47 am

    Dude, I totally hear what you’re saying but … where’s my car?

  • Alexa (Kat Biggie) [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 7:28 am

    Read it! I totally understand, dude! Now I just need to get something written to submit!

  • Karen [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 12:22 am

    Read, and understood : ) Dude, I totally hear what you’re saying.

    • Erica M [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 12:42 am

      I’m very glad to see you back on the challenge grid, no matter how much I’ve enjoyed your moonshine posts.

      • Karen [Tue] 30 Jul 13 at 5:52 pm

        Thank you : )