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Reflections of a working writer and reader

 

 

Creating a Text – Erin

What phases are involved in the creation of a text?

I came back from vacation earlier this month, and the forest across the street from my grocery store had been chopped down to make way for a shopping center. It fascinated me, how completely that changed the look and feel of a street that I use at least a couple of times each day. Having just vacationed in a part of the U.S. where this sort of change is fifteen years in the past already, made it even more eerie.

I should have known at that point that I’d be starting a new story. When I was younger it was characters who came to life first — now, it’s settings. Within a few days of coming home I had a character who wasn’t particularly fazed by trees in her town giving way to blue sky and asphalt, and who really didn’t understand why anyone else would be. As I read indignant letters to the newspaper editor from my fellow townspeople and wondered why no one had yet mentioned Dr. Seuss’ Lorax, I thought about this character, who said, flat out, that she spoke for the cars, not the trees.

That was two weeks and 14,000 words ago.

Some have said that writing is like an archaeology dig. You walk into your square with a set of tiny brushes, and let what you uncover dictate where your brush goes next. Maybe you know from previous digs what you are likely to find, but it’s never exactly what you’d predict – and there are always good and bad surprises. That’s the way it is for me.

Had anyone asked me three weeks ago, I wouldn’t have known that I’d be writing about someone trying to baptize themselves in a hotel swimming pool. Or an unemployed man who’s gotten himself into some trouble, and isn’t sure how to get out of it. Or a girl’s birthday party at a bowling alley where the smell of pizza fills the parking lot. Or little cans of energy drinks with six exclamation points in their names. Or people who brush their teeth while they drive.

I don’t know what’s coming tomorrow, or the day after that. I can’t wait to find out, though. I don’t write because I’m a master storyteller. I write because I love stories, and I’m fascinated by how, a good deal of the time, there really is something worthy underneath all that dirt.

Erin writes short stories and novels. She blogs at: http://www.rarelylikable.com

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