art of story

I'm taking a writing class called Art of Story. It's good; I love the people in my class. What I love most about people I meet in Writers' Circles and writing classes is the great diversity. Most writers are kind of eccentric to begin with; it's an introspective, solitary activity, and if you don't get out of the house or away from your computer, I think you spend way too much time in your own head. I don't know about you, but when I spend way too much time in my own head I typically end up in a fetal position in some corner, mourning my life and questioning everything. Every. Thing.

Anyway, from writers' groups and classes, I've met all kinds of people: Goth people with exactly 100 facial piercings and bodies covered in meaningful tattoos, quiet grandmas who like to write children's stories about reindeer, and some people who've never written a thing in their lives--they just got a notion in their heads that they've been called to write a novel. I've met other people who are the next Alice Munro (and I hate them) (no! I'm kidding--I just want to leech myself onto their brains and steal their magnificence).

Specifically, I've been asked not to write about my classmates on this blog, so I will not. However, I would like to throw out there into the ethos that I love them all. Eight of us went for drinks after class last week, and I sat and listened a lot and just absorbed their awesomeness and great senses of humor. I embrace their eccentricities and individual talents, and am supremely glad to know I share the planet with each one of them. I hope we find a way to keep in touch forever when it's over.

Our teacher (who says I can write about her, specifically), is chock full of knowledge about writing, good storytelling, and publishing. I love to listen to her talk; she's professorial and literary. I like people who use big words but in a way that anyone listening can use context clues and figure out what they're talking about. I think it's a talent.

Two weeks ago, our assignment was to go out in the world and eavesdrop on a conversation, then write a scene with a conflict and character development via action. I love this, and do it all the time. However, two weeks ago was a bad time for that. I ended up at a sports bar, which are notoriously bad places to eavesdrop on conversations. And coffee shops? Who the heck has time for those (except at 7:30 a.m. when your brain doesn't work)?

So I went to YouTube, found an interesting interview with one of my favorite actors and catapulted. It's not perfect--for one, I think it reads like a trashy beach novel, and I do not want to write those. Second, it has some character/story inconsistencies and one too many adverbs. I knew this going in, and sure enough, those are what they all pointed out. (Can I just say, though, that I think maybe adverbs are my writing style? Ernest Hemingway wrote really short sentences about fishing and bull fighting. William Faulkner wrote a lot of stream-of-consciousness and inner brain thoughts of characters. Amy Samson shall write with a lot of adverbs, and do so unapologetically.)

Anyway, this has been a good thing for me. It gets me out of the house, thinking about writing and proper storytelling, and gives me a lot of good assignments that keep me accountable, and keeping me accountable is probably the only thing that keeps me together. Were I not accountable to anyone, I feel quite sure I'd be a panhandler sleeping in a cardboard box right now. Or waiting tables at Hooters. One of those.

Our next challenge: to write a 500-700 word short story that includes character development via action, exposition, rising action, conflict, falling action, and resolution. And avoid adverbs and inconsistencies, which I will take a very good shot at. There's a lot to think about when creating story, and I like that. But it also hurts my brain and I have no idea where to start. The writing prompt (if we need it) is: pick an object in our house with a lot of meaning to us and either build the story around it or incorporate into the story. I can't think of a single object in my house with a lot of meaning to me (yes, seriously).

I am currently trying to come up with as many "What if...?" scenarios as humanly possible and go from there because I think all good stories ultimately begin with a "what if?" question that needs answering.

What if...I bought a plane ticket to Fiji tomorrow and didn't show up for work on Monday? (I actually know the answer to this question, and it's less than pleasant.) (See? Accountability.)