On Branching Out

Hello friends!

As you may know, my current Big Project is a fantasy trilogy. I’m talking magic and castles and the like. However, I don’t write only fantasy. Over the years, I’ve tried my hand at various styles and genres, from playwriting to creative nonfiction. (Poetry and I are not friends, so my forays into that were very brief.) I really enjoy writing short stories, though those tend to be much more realistic fiction. I have experimented with magical realism and horror, and even fairy tales, but despite my eagerness to explore different genres, I remain fairly consistent in tone and style.

When writing, I default to third person past tense. And I use a lot of dialogue (thank you, playwriting). Over the years I’ve tried to combat these defaults specifically and branch out, with varying degrees of success. My short story “Don’t” is written in first person present tense, but also very heavy in terms of dialogue. Conversely, another short of mine, “Post-Mortem,” has only a handful of dialogue while remaining in first-present — but the story is also about memory and nostalgia, so though the narrator addresses her surroundings in the present tense, she’s very much examining her past.

Over the course of my MFA, I took about a half a dozen workshops, and for each one I tried something new. I resisted the urge to present novel excerpts, because while I would have loved the feedback, I felt I’d benefit more by getting feedback on shorter, contained pieces.

Even if some of these stories never go anywhere, and most of them have yet to find homes in publications, they presented good practice for my writing. I probably won’t ever be comfortable writing first person present tense, but it’s not something I’ve shied away from. 

Last October, I planned out three novellas to serve as prequels to Scion of Victory, following major side characters and their stories. I also took this chance to experiment with style. The first novella, following the history of Jekk, begins in third-person omniscient and tightens as Jekk grows older. This novella also uses journal entries, something I hadn’t tried before. The second novella explores the last years of Isanto’s life and is written in first person-present, because Isanto is the sort of character who’s full of life and charm, and I wanted to capture his voice. The third novella, which is yet unfinished, follows the early years of Fahvitt, and while I chose third person-past, I also make use of the letters he writes to his sister to more closely capture his inner conflicts.

I guess in summary, I think it’s important to know what kind of writing you’re most comfortable with and what you default to. And I think it’s important to challenge those boundaries, because you never know what you’ll discover about yourself, your characters, and your story.

What I wrote this week: Draft 4, Ramint’s arc.

What I read this week: Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo; The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones; The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin.

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