Blog Archives

Writing “Weird Af” Fiction

Six Stories, Told at Night released its first episode yesterday! If you’ve heard it, you’ll know that it’s a strange sort of hybrid piece: it’s sort of like an audiobook, but it’s really more a one-woman play, and it’s really comprised of six discrete short stories, while simultaneously being one cohesive whole…

It’s weird. It’s wonderful, and I think we’ve hit on a really interesting form of audio fiction, and also, it’s weird.

Something like that...

Something like that…

Which is fine—I’ve joked that Submissions Grinder needs to develop a filter for fiction labelled “weird af,” since that seems to be what I write. Not intentionally, necessarily—it’s just that with every story, you need to find the best (or often, only) possible way to tell it.

Look at Six Stories: the story that emerged—this story of Sam and Joëlle, of loss and friendship—was always meant to be voiced by one person. That’s what it demanded—this story of stories within stories.

So, cool. An audiobook with extra bells and whistles, a straight read supplemented with sound effects. Right?

It IS a story that absolutely must be performed aloud. It loses a layer of meaning if you’re reading it on the page, the same way that scripts only spring to life when you get them on their feet. And I choose my words very carefully: performed aloud, not read aloud. There’s a difference in energy and intention. It’s subtle, but it’s there:

“If this was a regular stage play,” I told Blythe, “it’d be black-box studio theatre, with a minimalist set.”

“I treated it like I was onstage,” Blythe told me, after. “It was different than Heartstealer.

This would've needed a whole other grant... (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Here’s the idea, if we had a whole other grant…
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)

So. Not quite an audiobook. But not quite a conventional audio drama, either. Basically, I took that lovely taxonomy I developed at Stonecoast and threw it out the window. We have something new, I think. A weird, hybridized, emergent art form.

Because that’s how this particular story must be told.

We instinctively make these choices when we start noodling ideas. Is it a play, or prose? Short story or novel? First person or third person? Linear timeline, or jumping all over the place?

Sometimes we only find out by writing. Sometimes we change our minds halfway through. Sometimes we change our minds at the very end, when we’ve given the draft a cold, hard look.

In the end, though, it always falls to the demands of that particular piece. “This is the only way I could think of to tell this story,” is a perfectly valid reason for making certain artistic choices.

Even when they’re weird af. 😉

Six Stories Cool

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

Six Stories. Of course. Shameless plug, but the music is really, really good. Alex White composed a piece that captures this story in a nutshell, and Canadian soprano Ellen McAteer nails the vocals.

Birthday Post: On Turning Twenty-Three

It’s my birthday today. I’m twenty-three.

It’s odd. On the one hand, all of my friends are older than me. Consequently, it feels like I’m always playing catch-up. I’ve reached the stage where some of my friends were four years ago, but now they’re onto the next one. On the other, I feel like 23 is the last year of “early twenties.” 24 seems solidly into “mid-twenties” territory. I’ve been out of undergrad for a year now—life’s getting real.

Is there a little bit of anxiety around that? Maybe. Some. I’m actually quite optimistic for this twenty-third year. I have an apartment and roommates—and I like them. I love my dayjob. Writing is going well. I’ve found several wonderful communities.

I was a *good* Peter Pan...

I was a *good* Peter Pan…

But I think there’s a reason I took to the role of Peter Pan so well. I’m reminded of my first visit to Virginia, and one of the first conversations I had with Sonic Boom:

“You know,” she said, looking me up and down as we arranged stuffed animals in her room. “You’re different than I expected.”

First visit, remember, so I was already kind of nervous.

“Oh yeah?” I said. “What did you expect?”

“Well, I didn’t think you’d have glasses…”

Oh. Okay, then.

“…and I thought you’d be older.”

“Ah,” I said. “Well, I am twenty-one…”

“Yeah, but I thought you’d be a grown-up. Like, thirty.”

I thought for a moment. “It’s kind of cool,” I said, at last, “because I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” Then, too nervous not to ask, I said, “So, is this better than you expected?”

Sonic Boom considered that, and then nodded very solemnly. “Yes.”

So there you have it. Apparently, thirty counts as being a grown-up, but twenty-one did not. I wonder where twenty-three falls?

But all joking aside, in hindsight, I see that I subconsciously hit the nail on the head: “I’m old enough to hang out with the adults, but I’m still like the kid of all the podcasters.” The youngest in the room, but still among peers. That’s a role I know. It’s one in which I’ve spent most of my life. It feels familiar. Safe, even.

Being the bright, precocious kid may be a familiar role, but it’s not a sustainable one. I’m growing older, growing up. The day will come when I walk into a room at a con and there’s a new twenty-three-year-old with starry eyes and unbridled optimism.

However…

There is a trade-off.

At twenty-three, there are stories that I am not ready to write. Honestly, objectively, I know: I do not yet have the emotional maturity or life experience to do them justice. Similarly, a repeated theme since starting my MFA is that I have a good writer’s toolkit. I just need to build cooler, more complex things with it. During this first semester, there was a lot of talk about “developing” and “maturing” my craft, finding my voice and who I am as a writer.

I don’t know who I am. Of course I don’t, I’m twenty-three. Writing is one of those disciplines in which takes years, if not decades, to fully mature. I got very lucky, very early—but I’ve still got a lot of growing up to do. Asynchronous development hasn’t bitten me this hard since grade three. I can see where I want to be. I want to be there now.

But I have to wait. You can’t rush time. You can’t rush maturation, or experience, or practice.

You can only keep writing.

And there’s an upside to this whole “I don’t know who I am/what sort of author I am” conundrum: I get to find out. Ideally, I think you should always be learning, always growing, always discovering and rediscovering both yourself and your art—at the same time, this is the stage of life when a huge amount of that work takes place.

I know a few things.

I know that my best works have always been love songs. I know that there is something in the air lately, in this golden sunlight falling through the leaves, and these ripening raspberries and first tiny proto-apples, which makes me stop and think, “Is this not wonderful?” I know that “faith over fear” is a theme running not just through Hapax, but several works since.

So, I’m twenty-three. Young enough to power through on grit and coffee; old enough to know I can’t do that for much longer. Too young to know myself completely; old enough to be aware of that. Too young to be grown up; old enough to be growing.

Let’s see how this goes.

-KT

Cool Thing of the Week

There’s something in this poem that touches me very deeply. This is the sort of thing that sings to my own creativity:

Glory be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him.

– Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1877.