So I was sitting in a classroom at the University of Oklahoma. This was about a decade ago. I was in my master’s program and it was a special topics course on heteronormativity in American culture. We were discussing James Baldwin’s work, and the professor said, “I love Baldwin’s writing and I don’t know how he does it.” Then he looked at me. We locked eyes for a moment. I’m the only one in this MA program who has a BFA in Creative Writing. I immediately thought, I know how he does it. But before I had a chance to respond, he quickly stated, “And I don’t want to know,” as if he knew I was about to break the spell.(more…)
I’m open minded and enjoy talking to people about their Native ancestry. Folks get comfortable with me when they know I’m not going to judge them for admiring Native people, so they share their family lore. If they’re writers, they’ll likely mention a project they’re working on where they have characters who are Native. Out of respect, they’ll ask, “Can you make sure I’m not doing anything offensive?” and ask me to read their work. If I have time in my schedule, I’ll gladly do so, but I’ve been busier than usual over the last year and haven’t been able. This is part of the reason why I wanted to construct this list. This article is a serious examination of character archetypes for the purpose of creating literature. A unique approach situated from a Native lens.
I spend a lot of time thinking about love, and what I’m about to discuss here is in the vein of love. But a love for cohesiveness, a love that desires modalities in cooperation rather than competition. Certainly, it took the very pessimistic concepts around Baudrillard’s philosophy to engender my thoughts on this subject. But without Baudrillard I would’ve never reached this conclusive ending: competition is a mere copy of a copy. I hear you asking “So then what’s the original source?” My answer: inspiration.
There I am, like you, and so many writers, sitting at my computer and starting a new writing project. I’m drawing up characters because this story has been running through mind for years and it’s finally ready to go onto a page. Since I already have a working idea of who my main character is and her antagonist, I now need to weigh her against Karpman’s drama triangle. What is her good, bad, and ugly? This is how I’ve drawn multidimensional characters for over 10 years. But then two other creative forms changed my approach: Evolutionary astrology and Stanislavski’s method acting.
#WritersLife was the first thought I had when I woke. But I couldn’t shake the deep depression taking control of me. I felt an immense sadness. It felt like I was so inadequate that I didn’t matter to anyone. My life was so pointless and meaningless that no one would ever want to connect with me enough to care about my life. My mind kept circling around about how shitty a human being I was and how it didn’t matter what I thought or felt. My chest was heavy, shoulders sunken, and I could feel the length of my jaw pulling downward. I had little energy. Just enough to zombie through the last two days.
I hiked into the Grand Canyon. I must’ve been in my late twenties, maybe early thirties. It started out as a walk to look over the rim. I had camped the night before in a tent at one of the sites and woke early (probably about 5am). I was there with a friend and she was still asleep. As the sun rose out of the east, I decided to follow the paved roads toward the rim of the Grand Canyon.
What to do with a great idea? Let’s sit down and map out a novel. Writing in the dark is a popular way of writing short stories. We get an idea. We pull out the laptop. We write until everything is on the page. As we write, we don’t know where the story will lead and this suspense and feeling of surprise keeps us writing, it builds adrenaline, and keeps us guessing as we finish a story. But there may need to be a different approach when it comes to a 25 chapter novel.
Often I sit here in front of this computer and think about how to capture the voice of a narrator. Voice is the darkness around the thief, his soft footsteps, and his choice of victim. There is nothing innocent about what we writers do. We’re persuasive colonizers seeking to intrude on your sensibilities. We’re convincing–softly so.
The sought after and mysterious “voice” of writing. You watch editors salivate like Derridean defeatists about how magical voice can be when it “makes your foot tap to the rhythm.” Aww, how romantic. We are lovely romantic beings who need magic in our lives. Well, I’m about to take the magic out of the what, where, and how to find a literary voice.
Let’s say you’re in the office and you’re telling a story about someone. First you talk about what the person did. Maybe it’s something juicy, like a secret infidelity with a prison inmate, or maybe it’s something subtle, like they moved away from home. Then you go on to tell about something more recent, like, “Just the other day she was caught using her work phone to talk to this guy in prison.” This is the offbeat writing technique of the first person peripheral.
My father was am immigrant from Mexico. My mother a full blood Kiowa/Cherokee from Oklahoma. They worked the peanut and cotton fields when my sisters and I were young. I remember ducking the large rolling water sprayers in the fields; I remember the heat coming from the dirt onto my bare feet; and I remember living in abandoned farm houses in the Oklahoma fields. Let me tell you about cold nights. No, better yet, let me tell you about the warmth you can have from the thin layer of a blanket.
Revision is a little punk b#?ch! There I am toiling away on the second draft, almost to the end of the novel and starting to think about characters in the novel (mentally preparing for the “sweeps” portion of my revision process), and then I come to realize my main character is an asshole.