I’ve decided to start working on a little zine collection, just of all the writing I’ve done in my writing class for the past year. I just want it to be a fun collection for my own personal memories that I will give to friends. Plus, it will FINALLY give me an excuse to go to the IPRC!
So I’ve been going through notebooks and picking stuff I like–not always, like, the most polished stuff, i.e. the stuff I would most be interested in seeing published somewhere else some day. (Keep in mind all the works from my writing class are written in a free-write style, so trust me, as-is means it is about as unpolished as it gets!) Instead I’m picking stuff that feels important to me, or pieces that people enjoyed when I read them aloud. It feels like a good little project, good for my soul. It is also good flipping through all the little fragments and feeling good about how a lot of them will never go anywhere, maybe. Florence on a hiking trek in South America, discovering her boyfriend’s marriage certificate (to another woman) crumpled and stained at the bottom of his hiking bag. The Indonesian basketball player (now that was a plot that never went anywhere). All those weird, crazy 1-page alien or apocalyptic fables I wrote in January.
I feel like I’m really good at creating characters, and scenarios, and dialogue, but it is really difficult for me to execute plot. I know, right? Plot’s supposed to be easy? A to B to C? The Hero’s Journey? I remember my English teacher, bless her, drawing the concept of plot in the whiteboard as it relates to Macbeth: it reminded me of a roller coaster, all those sharp rises and abrupt descents. More depressing was my Popular Culture class one summer at Nerd Camp, in which I read a paper about movie plots that stated that all plots are the same, and that it is impossible to say or to create anything new (talk about an intense message to throw at a 12-year-old aspiring novelist!). “What does your character want,” I remember my professors asking me, again and again, but to me it always sounded like, What do you want them to want? And then my answer was always, “I don’t know, I’m not sure, I thought that was why I was in this class, so that I could, like, learn how to answer those questions?” And then, like the narrator in the wonderful “How to Be A Writer” story by Lorrie Moore, my characters would get into gory automobile accidents on the M-19 and the incest issue between the mother and son (reminiscent of Addie Bundren and Jewel from Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, of course!) would never be resolved.
I guess for now I am content to leave these plotless, unfinished scraps sheltered between the pages of my notebook. It is heartening to flip through the pages, read a piece, think, “Man, this one really didn’t come out as I envisioned,” flip some more, and then find one that really bangs me in the head. It’s a good feeling. It’s like you have to write a lot of quirky weird B-sides before you can get to the somewhat good song that could maybe fit well on an album. “Daisy Dead Petals” has its place of honor on the setlist among bigger hits and classics such as “Spark,” after all.