In this week’s issue of Your Story, “Colorin Colorado,” a woman is interviewed by a documentary crew about her relationship with a former writing student who became a Hollywood celebrity before he died young. Eddie, the student, liked to write horrifying crime stories; She and the teacher who voices the story had different ideas about fiction and art. How would you characterize those differences?
I think the main difference is that Eddie relies almost entirely on plot (her stories require clear initial conditions immediately complicated by action and twists), whereas her teacher’s understanding of writing is that tension and excitement should ideally come from the language itself, the character’s thoughts, the chosen point of view. My own writing is closer to the latter definition, but, really, I yearn to be like Eddie. That’s why there are aliens in this story. Very peripheral to its mainstream, but still. They are there. I am slowly including aliens in my work.
The narrator teaches her students that imagination is a stream of cause and effect, but later, in a conversation with another former student, she reflects that people expect consequences for their actions, but often nothing happens. What is the reason for this reversal in him? And what do you think about this issue?
She makes a distinction there between life and fiction, so I don’t think there’s a huge inconsistency. In his mind, fiction promises something that life rarely delivers: a logical progression, a consequence that follows, and so on. Yet, as she tells the reader in the scene you mention, most of what anyone does in life goes unnoticed. It often doesn’t lead to any exciting or big results. For example, the same dangerous behavior can kill some people and leave others harmless without any reasoning. This is probably why the narrator is tired of writing the action and focuses his attention on, as Eddie says, “people talking and thinking,” the result of all their talking and thinking only (boring, in Eddie’s mind) talking more and thinking more. The narrator feels that this is the only thing he has a grasp on – not the events, not the dramatic performances that deliver life lessons. I think at the core of its aesthetic is a question of credibility. She felt compromised in writing about sensational situations. How often does this actually happen? Meanwhile, Eddie’s problem with his teacher’s “small-scale” writing is exactly that: that it is so believable and mundane that it may as well be true, it may as well be autobiographical (a type of writing for which he has had a penchant for writing). no respect). The idea that a writer would spend time creating things that are small and realistic is hard for her to comprehend. Halfway through writing the story it was interesting for me to discover that my narrator, who was so dramatic in her writing, had actually lived through a very eventful youth.
The last time she sees Eddie, they take a long walk, stopping to shop and then fill up a piñata. It is clear to the narrator that Eddie is a drug addict. After Eddie dies, the narrator is reminded of what she calls the worst decision she ever made – stealing a story, a detail Eddie wrote about filling a piñata. Why does the narrator consider this the worst decision she has ever made?
This is linked to his idea that actions do not always have consequences. I think perhaps, in the case of his plagiarism, he would have liked something oddly enough to refute it. She doesn’t necessarily want public humiliation, but some sort of punishment. When he did it it felt like a potentially self-destructive act – it felt dangerous. He almost defies Eddie to confront him. But Eddie didn’t, and, now that she’s dead, the threat has disappeared. The narrator could have told her husband about the plagiarism, and seen the judgment in his eyes, but she would not. I think the realization that she won’t do it, ultimately stealing from Eddie, is, in her mind, the worst decision she’s ever made. Her relationship with her husband is a quiet part of the story, but theirs is a happy marriage. Realizing that there is something she cannot share with him is extremely painful for her.
When you and I were editing the story, I told you I thought it was the best story you’d ever written, and you agreed. Why do you think so?
The honest answer here is that I remember where I was when I got this message from you, and the location was Lillian’s Music Store in Gainesville, Florida (one of the best dive bars in the country), and I just- Drink now after a very long week. So, I was a bit relaxed, and was looking at things in a positive light (which is not natural for me). Willing is right, I thought! This Is My best story! Actually, I’m a pretty good writer! However, most of the time, I find it useless. Or that I am somewhere between good and bad. Who can tell? Is there any writer who knows his worth? If he gets a story or novel of his own which he has not written, how will he react? But, sorry—that wasn’t your question. It’s Wednesday morning, and, while remaining completely sober, I think I’ll still say that I have a special affection for this latest story. I think it has to do with form. When I started it, I thought that each section would be a glimpse into the narrator’s career, each about a book or piece he had written, and what was going on in his life at the time. That project derailed almost immediately, but it was comforting to start with a structure in mind, which I usually don’t. Even though I didn’t stick to the original plan of multiple stories within a story, I kept the initial “episodic” frame, and this gave me a lot of freedom when it came to zooming-in on the timeline and secondary characters, and I wrote long, short stories. For the time being it maintained the illusion that I was doing something new (new to me, that is), so I guess I pushed my brain to write something a little differently. I surprised myself more than usual, and that’s always a good feeling.