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What I’m Learning… Part 1

If you’ve followed my blog, you probably know that I’ve been working on my MA in Creative Writing. So, I’m taking an awesome writing course right now… I’m learning a lot, and one of the things we are doing is writing about how we can apply what we are learning to our own writing. That made me think that I should be blogging this stuff…. so…. here is the first installment of what I’m learning:

In his essay, “Talking Forks,” Charles Baxter writes, “How a person sees the things that surround him usually tells us more than an explicit description of his mood. The things carry the feeling. They do not when our emotions are placid, but when our emotions are violent, they must.”

This sentence is the epitome of the essay and could be the driving force of “The Things They Carried,” the short story by Tim O’Brien. People attach emotions to objects and they can relate to objects carrying emotions in fiction.

The soldiers in “The Things They Carried,” carried a lot more than just objects: “Grief, terror, love, longing – these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and specific gravity, they had tangible weight (O’Brien). Their emotions were heavy and they were attached to things. Lieutenant Jimmy Cross had a stone sent to him from a girl back home. It weighed next to nothing, but carried the heaviest emotional weight that got heavier as the story progressed. When a soldier dies because he wasn’t paying enough attention to the surroundings because he was thinking of the girl back home, the stone suddenly had more weight than anything else in the story.

O’Brien tells about all the things that the men carried and why throughout the story in order highlight the events of the story. For example, he gives a list of things including, “Kool-aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits…” and then tells about the reasons for some things like Kiowa that carried his grandfather’s hatchet to show his heritage and distrust of the white man. Then, O’Brien switches to something that is more significant to the main plot of the story, such as the poncho that the soldiers used to carry the one that was killed.

He also uses things and emotions to help continue the mood of the story. He writes, “They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity” (O’Brien).

In my own writing, I should be conscious of the things around and my characters’ emotional connections to them. Things can be symbolic of other things like the stone the Lieutenant carried symbolized hope and longing and then after the solider died – guilt (O’Brien). Keeping this in mind can help create depth to my stories. Objects do carry emotional weight and these things can make the characters feel more complicated and real. When the emotions are too hard, putting them into the things around us can help, and that can be used to add meaning and context within a work of fiction as well.

____sources:
Baxter, Charles. “Talking Forks: Fiction and the Inner Life of Objects.” Burning Down the House. St. Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 2008. Print. http://www.amazon.com/Burning-Down-House-Essays-Fiction/dp/1555975089/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1360887487&sr=8-2&keywords=burning+down+the+house

O’Brien, Tim. “The Things They Carried.” The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction. New York: Simon & Schuster. ebook. http://www.amazon.com/Scribner-Anthology-Contemporary-Short-Fiction/dp/1416532277/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1360887535&sr=1-1&keywords=Scribner+Anthology

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Writing Class!

I started my first writing class this week. We are working on scenes. Very interesting so far, and the best part is that I can use everything I learn immediately in my own personal writing. Our textbook is:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000SEI13Q/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

It is succinct and useful. The first few chapters deal with setting up a scene, finding the beat, and focusing on the hot spot, or turning point. I like the idea of finding the beat. That’s like matching your actions to the rhythm of the story. The author of our text, Scofield, gives great examples.

So, I thought I would post my first writing assignment here. The assignment was simply to brainstorm different occasions that could give reasons for a scene, and then pick one to write a short story on. My occasions were:

1. At a red light, a woman pulls her vehicle behind another car being driven by a man, and then slams into him.
2. A man joins a group of troubled kids at a campfire.
3. A couple starts arguing over a song on the radio.
4. A woman leaving a room accidentally slams the door too hard and another woman from inside the room jumps up and starts screaming at her.
5. A woman walks into an auto parts store, looks around and runs to the counter and screams, “Please help me.”

After much thought, I chose the first one. The assignment was 1000-1200 words, which is so hard for me!! However, I’m happy with the results. Enjoy!

Truth and Consequences

I pulled my car up behind him at the red light. Did he know I had followed him for over a mile? We had wound through palm tree lined street, under the blinding sun. His little sports car was stopped directly in front of me, and I had to stop him. Brandon had killed my sister and thought he got away with it. No. I had to make sure that didn’t happen.

I slammed my foot on the gas pedal. Knuckles white on the steering wheel, I braced myself for the impact. The crash echoed down in my chest. Electricity danced under my skin and into my heart making it pound heavily. I swallowed and opened the car door. He was moving in the car ahead of me. He could kill me too. I had to do this right.

Leaning over, I reached beneath the passenger side seat and slid my fingers over the little gun. I didn’t know about guns; it was my sister’s. I only knew that if you pointed it at something and pulled the trigger, you’d get a reaction. Maybe it would be enough to scare him into giving me the upper hand. I needed to get the upper hand, or I would lose everything.

I stepped out of the car; gun in hand, confidence riding me like lightning. I pointed the silver gun at his rear tire and eased my finger over the trigger. I felt the explosion up my arm and into my shoulder. I saw the tire explode with a bang and a whoosh. I looked up and saw him. Brandon, in his pressed, sleek black suit, stared back at me with a strange look in his eye. Did his brown eyes show fear? Panic? What?

“Are you crazy?” he yelled.

“Maybe, but you’re a murderer.” I spit back at him.

“I didn’t kill her, damn it, I loved her. Why can’t you accept that?”

“Liar,” I screamed. How could he love her? His heart was nothing but an empty black box. He was all polish and fake charm, and his arrogance loved only himself. “You didn’t. You killed her.” I pointed the gun at his chest.

“Stop, just stop, Anne, I know you aren’t going to shoot me.”

They always say that don’t they? Well, he obviously needed to know I would. I lowered the gun, pointing at his leg, below the knee, and squeezed. I thought I knew what to expect this time, but the blood spurting out of his leg stunned me. I reached out and grabbed the edge of my car when my knees started to buckle. Brandon screamed.

His screams woke up something inside me, something happy to hear that screaming. Ah, the upper hand at last. “You bastard, you aren’t going to get away with this.” My legs stopped shaking and I took a few steps toward him. Brandon lay on the ground grabbing his wounded leg. He looked up at me and his eyes were like a wounded dog.

I cocked my head to the side to hear him whisper, “Oh God, just leave me alone. Leave me alone.” He closed his eyes tight, making odd little wrinkles across his face.

I heard sirens in the distance, shrill and warning of danger through the bright clear day. Someone had called emergency services, maybe the police. That could only mean time was limited. I swallowed hard and kneeled down beside Brandon, waving the gun around like a magic wand. “I can shoot you. Only your leg this time, but I’ll blow your fucking brains out if you don’t tell me the truth.”

“What truth? What do you want to hear?” His words were barely a whisper.

“Tell me why you killed her.”

“Didn’t. Accident.”

“Accident, my ass. You killed her. Now tell me.” I touched his forehead with the barrel of the gun.

His eyes flew open and he grabbed my wrist, yanking it upward. I fell across his body, pointing the gun over his head. “Get off me. Let go.”

I wasn’t prepared to do either. “No, Brandon.” I slammed my knee into his groin and he groaned, but didn’t let go of my wrist. “Let go.”

“Leave me alone, Anne.” His voice was low and gravelly like the pavement we were stretched out on.

The sirens grew louder making me want to look around and see if any police cars had made it on scene yet, but couldn’t. Brandon could not win this time. I pulled at my arm to get it free, bracing myself against his chest with my other arm for support. “Damn,” I grunted when he pulled my arm higher. It felt like he was going to rip my arm off or at least pull it out of the socket.

“Drop the weapon,” a dark voice behind me commanded.

It was over, I was out of time.

“And stand up slowly.”

I had no choice. It was the police. I didn’t care about jail time or even death if they shot me, but I knew something was going to happen, and I could just not let go, could not let Brandon escape. I leaned in and bit him. I sunk my teeth into the inside of his shoulder as hard as I could. He let go of my wrist and I pulled my arm free. I pulled my body up so I was straddling his waist and pointed the gun in a two handed grip right at his face. “Tell me. Tell me now.”

“Ma’am, drop the weapon now.” The policeman said again in his voice of command, but I heard a bit of panic underneath. He was afraid of what I might do. Brandon stared up at me with wide eyes, full of wonder. He was also afraid of what I might do. I swallowed my own panic because underneath that layer of confidence, I was afraid of what I might do.

“Not until he tells the truth,” I said between clenched teeth.

“Whatever I say now won’t matter.” Brandon tried to shake his head. I wouldn’t let him use reason.

“I don’t care. I need to hear the truth.”

“Anne,” he whispered. “I loved her. I loved her.” A tear slowly leaked out of the corner of his eye. Was it the truth? I couldn’t accept that.

“I don’t believe you love anyone but yourself.” I was vaguely aware of the voices behind us, but I couldn’t let them distract me. No, not when I was so close. “Just admit it. You killed her.”

“Why does this matter?”

“I need to know. I need to hear you confess.”

“I won’t tell anything else. I answered. I loved her. So, just shoot or get off me.”

“Ok, you loved her, but you still killed her. I didn’t ask if you loved her. You killed her.”

A shrill screaming pierced the humidity of the day, loud and animalistic. I realized they were my own. My throat raw with screaming and I had dropped the gun. Hands were on me pulling me away. “No,” I screamed. “He killed her.”

I watched paramedics swarm over Brandon’s fallen body. Police officers wrenched my arms behind my back and yanked me away from the scene. I would never know.

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School Update

Finally, the last week of class… I really enjoyed British Literature. The class was not what I expected. There was a theme of revolution through the years, and we read literature related to that theme. We read Dickens, of course, but we also read Wollstonecraft and others that I would not have ever read on my own. Yes, I finished with an ‘A’.  But, I feel like I got a lot more out of it than just a grade.  I’m a school-nerd!

So, now I have 2 weeks until my next class starts and I’ve been looking forward to the break. The only problem is that we have so much reading for the next class (American Literature) that I’ll have to do as much as I can during the break.

I also plan on spending 4 solid days during the break on editing Summer Blood, my novel that was supposed to be done by now…. Hopefully, I’ll get it done by the end of the year. Stay tuned…

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11 weeks of literature

You may be wondering why I haven’t had a blog post in the past 11 weeks or so. Well, it’s because I’ve been taking 2 classes in my new MA program in creative writing at SNHU. The classes were awesome, but they left me 0 time to do anything else.

The classes finished up yesterday and now I can finally breath – a little.  The next term starts today! Oh my!  Well, I’m only taking one class this time, so I hope that will leave me with some breathing and writing room. 

I took College Grammar and Introduction to Literary Theory for the first two classes. Everything I learned I can directly apply to my writing, so ultimately, this has already made me a better writer (in theory). Since I haven’t written anything outside of these two classes in 11 weeks, I’m still not totally convinced. I guess I’ll let you know when I get my final grades in.

With that, I’m off to learn about social context in British Literature. Wheee.

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WANTED DEAD OR…

Just wanted…

I need these text book ASAP. Anyone have one that you are willing to part with? If so, pleast tweet me @sljasble

Rhetorical Grammar (6th Edition) [Paperback]
Martha J. Kolln (Author), Loretta S. Gray (Author)

The Structure of English For Readers, Writers, and Teachers, Second Edition [Paperback]

Mary M. Clark (Author)

 
 

Literary Theory: An Anthology (Blackwell Anthologies) [Paperback]

Julie Rivkin

 
Julie Rivkin (Editor)
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(Editor), Michael Ryan (Editor)

 

Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory [Paperback]

Peter Barry

 
Peter Barry (Author)
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I need these for class starting on 4/2/12.  So, I’m willing to negotiate a price.

Thanks!!

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I did it… OMG!

After so many hours of searching online for the perfect writing program… hours and hours! I finally settled on the program I wanted to do AND applied for it. I officially applied for the MA degree in creative writing online at the Southern New Hampshire University!

I’m really excited. I have everything completed that I need, and now I have to wait. I’ve done my FAFSA, submitted my writing samples, and requested my transcripts. Now, I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!

I haven’t been in school for a while, but I love writing and I’m hoping that this program will help me improve my writing and maybe help me move my career in a more creative direction.

I’ve been unsure of what I wanted to do for a while now. I’ve been sitting in a crossroads, if you will. I could move forward with pursuing my doctorate in Industrial/Organizational Psychology (sound interesting, huh?)… OR… writing. I’ve been leaning towards the writing. I think it was just a matter of finding the right program. I think this is a good one!

http://www.snhu.edu/English-and-Creative-Writing-Fiction-MA.asp

Once I finish this, I’ll have three Masters degrees ~wild, huh?!?! Well, maybe I’ll consider a doctorate afterwards, but right now my life is all about writing, and this program will be a good boost in the right direction. Woot!

Ya’ll cross your fingers for me too!!

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