Writing Habits, Part I from The Short Form.
Advice from Jennifer Mills:
Sometimes I’ll sit on a train with my headphones in but no music playing, just so it looks like I’m not listening. Whole stories can unfold in train carriages. It’s important to pay attention to sensory information, using all five senses, and take notes, because you never know when you are going to need a particular detail. If you don’t write about other people, really listen to how they talk, then all your characters will be versions of yourself, and you might as well go home.
My favorite season is mango season. Two towering mango tress grew at my grandma’s house on the island of Guåhan. We patiently waited and watched the fruit turn from green, to yellow, to ripe red.
I remember afternoons sitting around grandma’s table as she cut a ripe mango into two cheeks, crosshatching the orange flesh with a knife, careful not to cut through the skin. When she inverts the cheek, magic cubes form. Still life with convex mango.
Sweet, creamy, tart, floral, transcendent. Eating a mango is like eating sunshine. They say the Buddha often meditated in mango groves. They say the “mango’s kiss” awakens consciousness. Yet the mango also embodies immanence: it returns you to your body as its juices stain mouth, lips, fingers, hands, and clothes. Every bite roots my body home.
Craig Santos Perez, “Matå’pang, Migration, and The Case of the Stolen Mangos”, on the Kenyon Review blog.
There’s no pre-set story. There’s just a clockwork world full of objects and places and people and rules for how they interact, and you can do what you want with them. There’s a story, but you have to choose what it is and make it yourself, but the world is full of tools for doing that.
There’s something immensely appealing about taking one of the world’s greatest stories and handing the reins over to you. The narrative push-and-pull that lies at the heart of every good video game is expertly explored by Austin Grossman—and he should know, having written a fair number of games. Pick up You when it goes on sale next week, and join us at You’s launch party.
Coverflip: Maureen Johnson Calls For An End To Gendered Book Covers With An Amazing Challenge: “Redesign book covers by Literary Dudes. Imagine they have been reclassified as by and for women.”
So let your characters dream if they must, but be advised that their dreams — unlike your own — will have a significance attached to them by the reader. Will your characters dream prophetically, foretelling the future? Will they dream inconsequentially, as in real life? Will they use accounts of their dreams to annoy or attack or enlighten the other characters? Many variants are possible. As in so many things, it’s not whether, but how well.
Margaret Atwood on the use of dreams in fiction
For all the artists out there. xoxo
I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first (and far more preferable of the two) is white-hot, “in the zone” seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.
The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair. Put on some audio commentary and listen to the stories of professionals who have been making films for decades going through the same slings and arrows of outrageous production problems.
Kurt Vonnegut, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day! This is one of our faves. What’s yours? #pocketpoem