Saturday, June 24, 2006

Fiction that breaks the mold

Starting next week I'm taking a 5-day intensive writing workshop with Eric Puchner, a former Stegner Fellow and author of the collection Music Through the Floor. The class is called "Fiction that Breaks the Mold" and meets for four hours each day in the afternoons. We are not workshopping each other's stories, thank GOD, just talking about published stories and doing exercises. I'm really looking forward to it, because I won't be able to go to Tin House this summer and I really need the summer writing-camp experience. Writing is going OK but I need an infusion.

I'm hoping to learn about stories with non-traditional shapes. For instance, Charles D'Ambrosio (who says this in his interview) talks about stories that are linear as opposed to circular. You start out, say, in a dime store, but you never go back there, never tie it back into the ending as a metaphor. It's simply over and the characters go on with their lives. Or the Alice Munro story, "White Dump," which we are reading for class. I am not a huge Munro fan thus far, but this story starts out from a point of view, or two points actually, from characters who turn out to be quite minor. The major character, whose viewpoint we're firmly ensconced in by the end, is not even mentioned right away, and when she is, she's described as living far away. She does not seem like she's going to be in the picture. But it's all about her in the end. How do you meander like that while not confusing the reader? How do you make a story more like a poem instead of like a polished billiard ball?

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