Two Stories, Two Styles

I finished two short stories this month! That’s a lot for me. I tried different approaches for both of them because 1) I am attempting to find my voice as a writer and 2) I am like a writing shark. If I stop, I just don’t start again. Also I eat suits of armor.

The first story, I used a technique I learned in a creative writing course in college and broke down a story by Jhumpa Lahiri into its most basic components (i.e. PROTAGONIST with PHYSICAL PROBLEM does THING) and then imposed my own plot and characters on the bare skeleton of the original story. Her story involved a refugee woman living in a poor neighborhood in India. Mine involved a washed up opera singer in a traveling theatre group in a low-tech future where a coronal mass ejection broke the US electrical grid and so no one has movies or TV and have to watch live performances of Batman. I had a lot of fun and came up with some good lines, but the ending felt forced and the story felt rambling.

The second story sprouted out of a dream. I had a dream once that my cat got a job distributing salt and pepper packets to fast food chains. But he was just a cat, so he called me in a panic and I had to go help him. (He was just a cat, after all). This story turned out to be my favorite of the two, and I feel like it was more authentically my voice and style. But it did something that I didn’t expect. It went and wrote itself and the end product wasn’t at all funny like the original concept I’d started with. In fact it was really effing sad. I think it’s the saddest most wretched thing I’ve ever written, but I really like it.

In both cases I injected something foreign into my writing (a dream, or a story framework). I feel like it helped my writing and both were useful exercises.


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