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Working on a story for class.

It's taken a year, but I sort of have a process for writing literary fiction now. Unfortunately, it requires digging around in my personal experiences for vivid places and moments. Just what I never wanted to write about.

Still, for this kind of work, it's the only way to go. The problem now is--how to be sure that I let go of what might have happened in real life and let it take on a life of it's own.  That's actually a real challenge, because in the early stages I can feel myself fighting it. I want to say--but I didn't like that person or that place or that moment.

This is why I change the names of everything. I write about real places but I don't use the real names. I try not to write about real people.

How different is this from fantasy? Pretty different actually. I think fantasy takes longer to get into that zone, since I'm building it from the ground up. It takes time for it to become as real as any other place I've been. That 's part of how I know fantasy short stories aren't for me.

The big unanswered question here is what part of literary fiction can I take with me when I leave the program I am in? I keep getting asked the question--Kim, you do this so well. Why are you still thinking about fantasy as your true home? And how are you going to learn what you need to know about it?

I don't know why I think of myself as a fantasy writer first. I keep thinking, well, maybe it's because that's what I was raised as a reader on. Maybe it's because everything on TV is fantasy--ironic, since I don't watch it, but you get what I am saying here--when given the reigns, this seems to be what people of my generation do.

My ideas, my stories based on ideas I should say, tend to lean this way. Is it really so different than my painting? I can do realism, but my natural inclination is for flat cute and fuzzies. It just is.

All that being said, literary fiction has changed something about how I want to approach fantasy when I get back to it. I have a deeper understanding of what kind of story I want to tell. And I have a clearer path to get there--in literary fiction, anyway. Will those same tools and skills work in fantasy?

Maybe, but I've come to understand that as fun and exciting new worlds and new ideas are, there is so much abstraction found in the making of them that it makes it hard to get the same level of feeling out of it. You aren't going to be able to get the same depth of immediate understanding and connection with a character who comes from a world and a land that you aren't familiar with. Intellectually you might, but I doubt the emotional connection. And I've decided that's something very important to my own purposes for writing.

I'm still a good deal away from having to come up with a thesis project, and this is the first literary fiction I've done in a year's time. We'll see how workshop goes. I've got a lot to think about.

 

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Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.
Oscar Wilde