I’m looking at a weird detour sign in my writing life. Not sure if it’s a detour worth taking, or one I should just ignore. It might even really be a caution sign. I’m not sure.
I write memoir, nonfiction, devotional-type essays, and poetry (which tends to be concrete and nonfiction). I’ve always said I could never write fiction. I love to read fiction, but I just don’t have the creativity to imagine an entire world and story line to write fiction. I’ll leave it to more creative minds.
This past weekend I took the train to Seattle to visit friends. With 3 ½ hours on the train each way, I thought I’d write in the peace and quiet, sans family interruptions. My plan was to get my nonfiction book submissions ready for the Oregon Christian Writers summer conference submission program. Turned out I put the wrong files on my new computer and the ones I needed are on my dead computer and on a back-up drive.
So I decide to finish reading “On Writing” by Stephen King, which my son gave me for Christmas. I’m intrigued by King’s writing method. He says he almost never plots a story. So, as OCW folks would say, he’s a pantser. Plotting, he says, makes the story stilted and dull. Instead, his books begin with a situation. For example, “Carrie” started as a situation involving an outcast girl with acne who was bullied. Then he added a “what if?” For “Carrie” it was “what if she had telekinetic powers?” Then he just writes what the characters do in that situation. He imagines what would happen if his “what if” came true.
I finished the book on the train ride home and thought, “Well, that was interesting, but I don’t write fiction.” I still had time before arriving in Portland, so I opened my Kindle and remembered I’d downloaded the sample of “Farenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. I’ve been wanting to read it for some time. I love dystopian literature. I started reading it and when I got to the end of the sample I needed to know what happened next. As soon as I got home, I bought it and continued reading.
Then on Monday during my lunch hour I decided to see what the prompt was at dVerse Poets Pub. It involved flash fiction that had to include a certain phrase. You can read what I wrote here. It may not be perfect, but I realized that I apparently can write fiction!
Today I was off work for a medical procedure and while I was resting (per doctor’s orders), I continued to read “Farenheit 451.” I noticed that while Bradbury may have plotted this story, it’s more likely that he started with a situation and a “what if?” For this book, the “what if?” is something like “what if firemen started fires to burn books instead of putting out fires?” I suspect I’ll discover some other “what ifs” as I continue to read.
Then I had this strange idea for a dystopian novel, so I made some “what if” notes in my Color Note app on my phone. As I made dinner, other ideas for how the flash fiction I wrote yesterday could be the seed for the first chapter. The character in my flash fiction, Mary, started filling in some backstory details of how she came across the pregnancy test she used to determine she was pregnant.
And here I am, looking at this detour sign that’s calling me to delve into a writing genre I love to read but have never, ever, ever thought I would write. I think I’ll camp out here for a bit, ponder whether the detour is worth taking or is maybe the only safe way to go.