Monday, September 17, 2012

Stories that never leave you

One of the very first classes I took in college was an intro to creative writing workshop that was being taught by a graduate student in the English program. Each week, she would assign us different stories to read. Then we'd talk about them. One would be used to teach about point of view. Another would be used to teach about unreliable narrators. You get the point.

There was a purpose behind each one. ... And it was in college that I learned I didn't always want to read with a purpose in mind. I want to be absorbed in what I'm reading, make random discoveries, think about the characters -- but I do not want to be on a mission to identify each instance of symbolism.

I try to write my stories in the same way -- with fresh eyes, wondering where they'll go. Did I know how For Ever would end when I started it? Not a clue. When I began, I kind of figured my story would have a happy ending. I really like happy endings. Because if nothing ever ends well, where's the hope?

For Ever and its characters had their own ideas, and that's why it ended the way it did. It didn't feel comfortable, tidy, and wrapped up. But it felt right in my head. It ended where it was supposed to.

Sigh. I've gotten off topic. Back to my freshman English workshop. Rather than reading the assigned material, I happened to flip to another story in our anthology, and I started reading it mostly because of the title -- "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" Written by Joyce Carol Oates and published in 1966, the story was like a black hole. It sucked me in.

And the ending was so horribly creepy and unsettling that I became somewhat obsessed with Oates's story about fifteen-year-old Connie. It was written more than forty-five years ago, and I read it during college (more than fifteen years ago). I still think about it, though.

Some stories just never leave you, which I think is pretty awesome.

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