Monday, October 7, 2013

Writing: Author, Narrator, Character

Hello!  Today I'm sharing something I've been excited to tell you about for a while.  Back in August, my good friend, Lois, contacted me about joining a new mini-writing group.  We would be creating stories round-robin style: each person would begin a story, pass it along to the next person, and by the end of the project, we would have four separate stories with four authors each. 

We got together yesterday for a tea party to unveil our four pieces.  It was such a blast!  We laughed over each unexpected plot twist (and over the persistent fandom references - do we get to count those as "intertextuality"?).  But the laughter was certainly not caused by poor writing.  Both during the writing process and looking back on it, I was consistently impressed by the caliber of the these ladies.  We all quickly agreed we will be doing this again!
[The four writers* and their tea** pot]
*Nancy, myself, Lois, and Sami
Also, I love that we're all in dresses and skirts
**tea powers writing

I wanted to share at least one of the pieces as an example.  This is less of a story, but it was one of my favorites.  We closed with this one and I was honestly moved by it.  Nancy turned to me and asked, "Samara, are you crying?"  No... ok, maybe tearing up.  I just really love this piece.

So without further ado:
Author, Narrator, Character

I could write an entire novel about hands, she thought. Wouldn’t that be interesting.
The problem with writing has always been first sentences. There are too many good ones already written. How could she possibly compete?
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that, a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
As Gregor Samsa awoke from a night of uneasy dreaming, he found himself transformed in his bed into a giant insect.
How do you even begin? she wondered.
The dreamy poorly-dressed twelve year old of her past had no qualms about beginnings. A prologue came to her in an evening and she began chapter one the next morning.
A boy, about the age of 17, lying in a dark and musty dungeon. 
Oh lord, she groaned. Scintillating writing my dear.
And a character. She needed a character. Someone for her readers to love and identity with. Someone they would root for.
Is she the character of this story?

Excuse me, let’s just pause a moment and remove this layer of third-person narrative. Can I do that? Is that allowed?

I am the author. And the narrator. And the character. And I am rather pleased to make your acquaintance. Would a formal introduction be considered tacky? Or cliché?

We interrupt this story that you have just started reading and are probably about to put down because honestly what is even happening here for a relatively important announcement.

An open letter to future high school students and possibly future English majors:

If you are reading this short story because I became an award-winning, world-famous author and this pithy piece of writing is deemed important enough to be studied in a class and you have to write a paper about something to do with this story, here is an idea: metafiction. I love all things meta. And already, there has been plenty of metafiction. Also intertextuality. Ask your teacher.


the author, narrator, and character

Thank you for your patience.

What’s all this, you must be asking.

What indeed.
She was asking herself a similar question. Lying on her bed. Drinking tea. Writing a story.
What was it all about, this living thing?
was she even alive?


And if author, did she create? Or if character, did she discover? But if narrator, whose script was she using?

Thus beginning the cycle again.
At times I was one, then the other. Now I am all three.
Three-sided. Externally, multi-faceted. Internally, trapped?
No matter. She defined, was defined by those three sides.
Honor. Hero. Hate.
Awarded. Awkward. Ambivalent.
Make. Made. Mediator.
Author. Character. Narrator.

But then, enough introspection. She could introspect all day.
And wasn't that what had ruined her in the first place?
Yes. No. Moving along.

"Hands touching hands."
Hands to work.
Hands show age or vigor.
Hands in marriage.
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

I'm telling you - intertextuality...


But which hands to write about?
Which hands, which story of hands, are most worthy?
She wondered.
I wondered.
The problem with inspiration is finding it in the first place.
Does one look for it, or simply wait around for its arrival?
I can look under rocks, inside the working gears of an old clock, or in the works of the great writers before her.

After her, even?

But although one can look high and low for that magic spark of inspiration, one can never guarantee a result.
Perhaps I must wait for that spark, that neuron surge erupts in your brain which will expand the horizons of my subconscious.
Am I—is she—even worthy of being a protagonist? Is this plot worthy of consumption?
Will my tale will quickly fade among the multitudes of other mediocre fictions?
In the world. In the word.

She lies in her bed, buried in her head.
Why do I want/need/crave this story be written?

Her tea grows cold in her cup in her hand in her room.
The question haunts her skull, eats her soul.

Is she alive? Am I alive because I—a being of some abstract sort—feel alive?
Do I look well if no one else can see me? Can a voice make sense if no one hears it? What proof have I that I matter if no one else validates my very existence? Perhaps I am myself a mere idea. A figment of imagination of that bored college student lying on her bed.

Her tea was drained, her eyes were strained.

She is all three parts of the cycle—author, narrator, character.
And yet…why does she feel so alone?

Look under more rocks, my dear. Perhaps there is another element? An ingredient as of yet missing?
I look up.
What do I see?

Whose hands?
….Your hands?

Hello! Who are you? I was so wrapped up in myself and all of these intertextual deep deep thoughts, that I forgot that there was another person in the room.

How could I have forgotten the hands of my reader!
Your beautifully unique and curious hands, which hold my pages even now.

You are the inspiration that I have been looking for. I realize now what had been missing from my story: someone to listen.

How strange…is it very often that the author-narrator-character falls in love with their reader?

Another open letter:

You may be asking yourself how on earth the Author/Narrator/Character of a short story could fall in love with you, The Reader, when so many before you have read this same short story.

The answer: because each time a new person reads a story, they make it their own and adopt their own reaction. This is not a one-way monologue, my sweet, sweet Reader. This is a conversation. I am interested in what you have to say.


Your beloved Author, Narrator, and Character

But…what will happen once my story ends?
Will my life end as well? Will we never speak again?
My voice feels complete now… my voice is being heard across the wrinkles of time and space.
It is up to you now, how this relationship continues.


I set down your pages and feel my world rock a little. How. How could this amazing author know? I have fallen in love with these pages. My teacher assigned this well-known author and I thought you would be one of the many generic, boring assignments of my life. He wants us to respond to you, the Author, Narrator and Character.

You have made me contemplate my own validity. How I interpret my own reality. I hold you in my hands and I wonder what you, the Author, Narrator, Character once held and who else has held you and been drastically changed.

I want you to know you are heard and that the greatest gift of all is to love and be loved in return.

There you go. Intertextuality.

Your Reader

1 comment:

  1. This is great! Well done! Can't wait to see what else you ladies create!