Notes from Ron Carlson workshop at Wordstock, Saturday November 10, 2007
Ron is interested in process, in “surviving the draft.”
Reading is about decoding the text. Writing is about tolerating ambiguity and the unknown. Start with what you know, the first sentence that surprises is when most writers leave the room. it’s the first twenty minutes after the first time you want to leave the room – this is the key, this is where the real work is done. Stay in the room.
Solve all problems through the physical world – the specifics, the details. Select what matters to you. Stay in the room. Pay attention and get enough sleep. In June of 2009 Ron will have been teaching for forty years and “theme” is the least-used word for him. Write from events, not theme.
Now the mattress story, when he dropped the mattress off the freeway. It was the biggest thing he had ever dropped and it dropped the farthest, so it stuck in his mind and was the starting point for a story. He has written/published about eighty stories and only knew the ending of three of them. Maybe two. Just say it truly. It is not your job to understand your own story. This is very uncomfortable. Need to have a high tolerance for ambiguity.
He is only interested in finding a way to write the next sentence.
Keep from drowning in the draft with INVENTORY. There needs to be a second story behind the first story. Gather everything you can into the story.
Start in the middle, but may not find this until a later draft. Might have to start at the beginning. Into what life has this moment come? Use Events, own experiences and that of others. Sit in every chair.
"I write from my personal experiences, whether I've had them or not.
“No ideas but in things.”
When anyone changes place, touch the atmosphere, make it specific. The outer story is the motor, draws the reader in.
A bath, a walk, or an airplane trip – do not use them, too much an invitation to reflection. Not fresh.
We need an outer story, what happened, to convince the reader. Needs to be simple and convincing. The story has to be about a second issue. The inner story – going for meaning. Makes it hard.
2 – 1 – 3 is the standard format for a story. Start in the middle, then the backstory, then the end. The inner story is who is she, the second section.
Literary fiction is the light and shadow on the person’s heart, how complex the person is.
IMAGERY IS KEY
INVENTORY, The Truth of the Image.
Labels: writing craft