I'm taking a class this semester called “The Craft of Fiction,” in which we read and write as much fiction as possible. Sounds like the best thing ever, right? It is. It's also the worst thing ever. I can't quite figure it out. Some of my issues:
1. We do exercises like “listen to this song, and write whatever comes to mind.” Now I associate “Chicago,” by Sufjan Stevens, with a “fictional” character that weirdly resembles my APUSH teacher. And if you've met either him or Sufjan Stevens, you'll know that they're horribly incompatible. I used to like that song, too. I'm not so great at this exercise. I have over-analyzed lyrics to songs I never wanted to even under-analyze. I'm not a lyrics person, and never will be.
2. We get to carry around handmade notebooks. Another double-edged sword. The notebook itself is beautiful, but I get sudden uncontrollable urges to wear a flannel shirt, oversized glasses, combat boots, and an asymmetrical haircut.
3. Peer. Review. Peer Review is the worst. But it works, because if there's one person you'll listen to, it's your peer. Because peers judge you. Because that's what peers do. And for whatever reason, we care what they think. Peers beat to death your painstakingly crafted characters and rip apart your careful timing. It's horrible. I had no idea my diction was so substandard, atrocious, and deficient.
4. We get to read! I love reading. It's my favorite. We get to read the best short stories my prof can come up with. And then we get to spend hours contemplating that fact that we'll never ever get to be as good a writer as Kelly Link. If you ever want to never sleep again, read her story “Stone Animals.” It's terrifying, and I want to get on her level. I want to get I don't know about you, but knowing that I'll never be that good is just about enough to not make me want to try.
5. Characters. The biggest thing I remember from AP Lit is that to be a worth reading, a book needs to 1.) have rounded characters with strengths and flaws, 2.) show those characters growing. That's it. That's all a book needs, according to my AP Lit teacher. I believe Stephenie Meyer has failed on both those fronts. As have I. My characters almost always get the growing part down, but they're so weakly drawn in the first place that nobody notices when they change. Harumph. I'm working on it.
6. Dialogue. You never realize how impossible dialogue is until you try it. And it can do such subtle things. As my Shakespeare prof once said, “As soon as you have two characters speaking in the same obscure trimeter, you know they're gonna hook up.” This was in regards to Richard III, who seduced Anne after murdering her husband. Dialogue, man. It's magical(ly impossible.)
In short, I'm loving the non-writing part of my fiction class. The whole “writing” part really doesn't come easily. On the plus side, I managed to work in some very clever (if I do say so myself) Shakespearean references into my short story. It was kind of awesome.
Ginger's Song of the Week: It's kind of a shame that I saw the Black Keys in concert over the summer, and am JUST now realizing how spectacular they are. Embarrassing, really.
Is anyone else taking creative writing? How's it going?