I once had a friend comment on a Facebook picture of my then-boyfriend, “I want to put you two in a snow globe and watch you interact.” Amelia Gray’s most memorable stories in AM/PM take place in a world defined by the rules that the characters are I. stuck in a box with no apparent knowledge of how/why that came to be and II. don’t appear to be getting out of said box anytime soon. My point is that we’re all a sucker for constraints, especially weird ones. We like to be able to manipulate the situation that a constraint puts our characters (or sometimes our real life friends) in. I would argue that the opposite is true, as well. When there isn’t that constraint-open spaces, opportunity for upward mobility, other options, really-the results can be just as interesting. They could go anywhere, be with anyone. So why are they here? Doing that? With them? My ramble is currently being fueled by some feedback I recently received on my writing.
- The world I build for my characters tends to exist in a vacuum. That is, no more context of the big picture.
- I tend to start my stories too close to the individual trees and slowly back out without a clear view of the forest as a whole.
Are we seeing a pattern yet? Professor Sean recently suggested I show more forest. Earlier forest. In brief, What’s this story about, Tabitha? I often tell my students that we don’t want to make the reader do too much work. Although that rule means something a little bit different in fiction than it does in college composition class essays, I should take a bit of my own advice. With this advice came the suggestion that maybe that vacuum could be usable? Like, a stylistic choice? I’m still trying to figure out what to make of that and how to use these bad habits and turn them into something productive, which is sure to be a long process. The thing is that I like people and the weird ways they respond to situations more than I like context and the actual tension itself.
I’m talking writing-wise, but I’m kind of thinking life-wise. Being in limbo, being twenty-something and on the cusp of the rest of your life is kind of a constraint in itself, really. I am stuck or unstuck, depending on how you look at it. Last week, I got a $4.25 raise at my job at the college. I am officially using my degree. I also got a $500 scholarship from Noy Holland for the Juniper Summer Writing Institute, which is pretty much the most exciting thing that has happened to me since ever. I also got my first rejection to a fiction submission. I can’t really explain why this was also exciting. Sooooooo, maybe right now I’m in the boring exposition of life most of the time. I can’t really see the forest yet, but I can see the trees. If you haven’t noticed yet, this entire post is a desperate plea for validation. *shouts to the heavens* THIS IS WHY I’M DECIDING TO BE OKAY. I’m thinking we’re supposed to be here right now. Doing things. Some fruitful, some not. There’s only so much studying and editing and thinking about doing the thing before you have to give in and do the thing, you know? Or at least put yourself out there for something-anything-to happen to. That’s material, right? Sometimes you take yourself out and after several hours of little to no social interaction, you wind up closing your laptop to actually talk to the handsome stranger and find yourself in a night so straight out of a paperback romance that the experience is essentially unusable. I am learning that real life is one of the most cliche things one can do, second only to taking basic overexposed photos at the beach with your Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 and declaring it a metaphor for your current place in life (which is, if you think about it, kind of an interesting constraint in itself).