That Rare Creature, Original Fiction

I never participate in NaNoWriMo. I blame the month of November, because it never works out that I have enough spare time to write an entire novel. I’m also becoming more and more certain that I have ADD, which is my new excuse for rarely posting at all. I’ve got an answer for everything.

The knowledge that every person who fancies herself a writer and can somehow find the motivation to do so is currently finishing off that novel-in-a-month makes me think about the vast and expanding number of stories that exist in today’s world.

Tell me if you’ve heard this one: “There are no new stories.”

I’ve heard it a whole lot of times over the years. And I suppose, in some ways, it is true. Kind of. That is, at their cores a lot of stories are about the same basic things – there is a set number of stories that exist, I’ve heard, and absolutely every piece of “literature” (using it as a loose term, hence the quotes) falls into one of those categories. I believe I remember the number seven being thrown around. Not that I care enough about this particular claim to pay attention to what these categories actually are.

I don’t adhere to this. More specifically, I do not believe that just because two authors write books centered around prophesied dragon-slayers, they are writing the same book. Allow me to elaborate.

Let’s assume for a moment that it’s true, and there are no new stories. So, what the fuck am I doing? What’s the point in being a writer? Why don’t we all just give up, since all the stories have been told? Hmm. You know how some people say there are no stupid questions? They’re wrong. That last one is a really stupid question.

It might be so that one can strip down most stories to their basic plots or themes and lump them into broad groups. If you’re someone who does that, congratulations, you have managed to destroy the story as you were reading it. Because, although that core is typically important for most works, it does not make up the entire work. The plot, or the theme, is not the entire story. There are a lot of books that are suspiciously similar and do not offer anything new or make you think at all. I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about LITERATURE. By some definitions literature is any writing, but I’m a scholar, so that’s not the definition I work with. Literature has something to say, which goes beyond a single aspect like plot or theme or symbolism or any of those other terms you learned in grade school. The language is important. The way something is said. The expression of a common experience that is told in a way you have never read before. An image that awakens something in your mind. Reflections of the current times, important events in history and what they might mean.

I realize that this last paragraph is not the picture of clarity, and I apologize. I think about this a lot, and I so vehemently believe that new stories happen all the time that my arguments never come out in a calmly structured way. And, honestly, I don’t care, because I’m pretty sure you can still get the point.

The point is, what does originality mean? If it means inventing a plot that is completely unfamiliar at every turn, then we’re all screwed, because that’s impossible. Personally, I like to challenge this new story business by rewriting old stories in entirely new ways. Sadly I cannot yet prove this, since none of them have been published. If you have a way to help with this, you’d be one step closer to seeing my own brand of originality in action.

(Kidding, of course. I’m going to get myself published. It just might take a while.)

My thinking is that originality is not about creating a world no one has heard of, or adding complex twists to the basic plots all stories fall into. It is about the way the story is told. And honestly, one does not have to be Murakami (whom I still haven’t read yet) to be original.

Although I hear it helps.



My Writing Won’t Shatter, It’s Not Made Of Glass

I had an idea that I think is a good one. Self-publishing in video! And what I mean by that is: I would record myself reading my writing and post it, most likely on youtube, for people to view. Specifically, I’m thinking of The Krishnaverse Through Their Mouths (which once again I feel needs a title change), my cross-cultural mythology work recounting important moments in Krishna’s life as he encounters characters from different mythologies, from Greek to Irish to Japanese. I want to publish this work so, so much, but I worry that its format will keep some publishers from wanting to publish it, even though it’s very well written and original, according to the feedback from professional writers Holly Robinson (The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter) and Gregory Maguire (Wicked). You see, The Krishnaverse is a book of five stories, all written in the first person, each from the point of view of a different character. While all of the stories are interconnected, they can also stand alone – some more than others, in my opinion, but all can be read as individual stories. Although many publishers and agents say they want new, original, interesting, cross-genre work, I doubt most would be willing to take such a chance on an unknown writer. In order to get the work out there, I thought video publishing might be a way to do so. However, I wrote The Krishnaverse with the intention that it would be read. That is not to say that it shouldn’t be recorded – it’d be just like an audiobook. My biggest worry, of course, is that publishers might then refuse it on the grounds that it has been previously published, even though it would not be in written form. Any thoughts?

Incidentally, if anyone wants to help me write a synopsis for Krishnaverse, based on the information I provided here (or perhaps just give me suggestions?), I’d be grateful. I’m just having trouble getting started, but I know it’s the most logical next step for submitting for publication.

Reflections on a Piece in E-mails

I came across a piece I did last year that is written in the form of emails between a brother and sister. It was my response to an assignment for Recent Innovative Fiction, a writing class I took during my last semester at Bennington College. It was fun to write, and very very experimental in nature. The plot is built on a rather strange premise and developed only as much as I needed to write a few pages. I don’t intend to ever finish it, and it’s not exactly fit to post online, but I want to talk about it briefly, as it is out of the ordinary and, despite its roughness, I am proud of it.

Many interesting considerations go into writing a piece like this. A skeleton of a plot is necessary to begin writing, but the main consideration was form. We concentrated a lot on form in RIF. It’s not enough to simply write a story in an interesting form – if you don’t take advantage of the form you decide to use, you’re missing an opportunity. So I asked myself: what can I do to play with email form? Of course I decided to create a parody of those ridiculous chain letters people send each other. In terms of language, I mostly stuck to the type of language people typically use in email. It makes the more poetic sentences really stand out. And what else? I could have given the characters interesting emails, but I never got around to assigning them email addresses.

The one thing I came up with that would have made this piece very interesting, if it were finished and published, was to get creative with the time stamps. You have to read them carefully in order to spot it. One character’s emails always originate from the same time on the same day, while the other’s are sent at random times, often weeks later than their last. The conversation progresses as if they were talking in real time, but the information they share about their lives indicates that he is stuck in time, while she’s speeding forward. They also relate strange occurrences in their lives, which is meant to be connected to the weird time paradox they seem to be stuck in. I suppose that makes it a sci-fi/fantasy type story. As I wrote I imagined that most people would interpret the weirdness as indications of end-times.

I think that this story could turn out well, but if I do return to it to write more, create a complete piece, it won’t be for a long time. I’d love to hear that people are intrigued by the idea.