Day 9 VCCA: Payoff in Process

To be fair, it started in August. I received feedback from two literary agents that even though the writing in my war manuscript was strong and “you’re obviously a talented writer,” both agents didn’t feel they could connect the characters as much as they were hoping. My first reaction was to chalk this up to form: flash fiction is, after all, the story of the moment (and perhaps less so the story of the character). It’s rhythmic, memorable, poignant, genuine…but is it character-driven? Not always.

But by the time I got to Texas in September, this notion of characterization grew even stronger in the back of my mind. The agents had a point. I had to ask myself: Out of all the short stories I have ever written, do I have any characters I can really say I know well? Not especially. But there was a little hope…I had Lillis from “Amplitude” and the narrator from “That Sunday Morning Feeling.” I had Dobson from “The Ghost of Sanchez” and even Sanchez, too (ghost as he was). When I’d thought long and hard about all this, realizing I could only count the number of characters I really felt I knew (or could at least imagine getting to know better) on one hand, I had to confess: I love language more than I love story.

It was a scary moment, but one that I believe this past 23 months on the road made possible in the best way. It’s lovely, isn’t it, when we finally see something illuminated in the room that’s been there all along? Even though I felt scared, I also felt lucky.

I pushed through a flurry of flash fiction in Houston (one story per day), all the while fantasizing about the time I’d have as a Resident Artist at Madrono Ranch. There, alone in Texas Hill Country, I’d have the time, peace, and quiet, to start working this new muscle called characterization…

(Continued tomorrow…)

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