Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In Dreams

When I'm not lying awake and panicking or having wake-up-screaming nightmares, I tend to dream very cinematically and, if I'm lucky, can remember the dreams when I wake up.  I've gotten some of what I consider my best work out of dreams, and I credit this to three of them starring Walton Goggins.  It's like getting to watch my favorite TV shows while I'm asleep, and sleeping is something I love even more than watching TV.

Nice of you to invite me into
your dreams
The third, which I wrote over the weekend while trying to avoid writing an article about the devestating flood that washed away Middleburg and Schoharie, (I grew up in Schoharie County, two towns over) was inspired by the one dream I didn't have about flooding.  No, in this dream, I got shot while during an interview and wound up in Purgatory, with Walton Goggins and Jay Karnes playing my roommates (but not as themselves or any of their characters) 

I wrote it in a very different way than I've written any of my other dreams.  The narrative is very short and the whole thing comes to 912 words and is written with minimal description and dialogue much like "Hotel Jesus".  It made me rethink how stories are written.

Traditionally, fiction is taught in that Raymond Carver school--long, plenty of dialogue and description, a slow build to a climax, a short story as we all picture a short story.  But in flash fiction, there isn't room for that.  And I suppose I could have written "Purgatory Blues" the same way I wrote "Keyton's Keys" (which also came from a dream and also starred Walton Goggins")  which clocked in at just over 6K.  I could have described Purgatory in full detail, but for whatever reason (laziness, I imagine) it called out for a more compact format.

So I began to wonder--do we choose the story's format, or does it write itself?  I have a friend who refuses to write anything under 15K.   He just doesn't think he can.  Never mind that most places won't pay for and publish that length of work anymore, and although plenty of online lit mags (like Tin House) will publish longer work, he wants to get paid.  It's fair, I suppose, but do all stories need to be told in long form?  Is more description, scenery and dialogue required in order to tell a proper story?

I didn't set out to write a flash fiction piece.  If anything, on "Hotel Jesus," I actively tried to avoid it for fear of becoming a malcontented douche.  But after what seemed like a hundred false starts, I settled into the form of "movements" and short scenes that became the Pank-published piece it is today.  All without becoming a malcontented douche.  Let's hope the same works on "Purgatory Blues"

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