Woman As Art
The Old Soldier tries not to write too much about himself. But I thought you would appreciate what follows.
I have a shelf in my bedroom that is stacked with old, typed manuscripts and hand-written notebooks. Some of the manuscripts are in boxes. Some are in manila envelopes. These manuscripts and notebooks go back thirty years.
Lately, I’ve been hand shredding these old manuscripts and notebooks and throwing them away; because many of them are just copies of copies.
Today I came across some hand-written notes I wrote to myself. The notes are dated August 31, 2001. I was a 55-year old undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh at the time in the fiction writing program. The notes are titled Objectives and Aesthetics.
I thought you might get a kick out of these notes. I intend to keep them.
My objective is to reduce the language as far as possible to its pictographic origins; to strip it to sense perceptions and to give action meaning through form. I do not want the reader to think. The language must be simple. I want the reader to experience the story on a subconscious level and only afterwards to have the intellect engaged. Of course this is the ideal.
A short story is a significant event given closure, or implied closure, by the writer.
English: The library of the Frick FIne Arts Building at the University of Pittsburgh. photo by Michael G White (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For my purposes life is a tragedy, it ends in death. How does my protagonist deal with this fact? How does he (she) give his life meaning? Since there can be no physical victory over death, a moral victory is the only possibility. Therefore my protagonist must live by a moral code in order to achieve a spiritual transcendence over death. This code is simple but rigid: to live fully in the moment “without illusions.” Only by stripping away the comforting illusions of childhood can life be truly experienced in its total horror and beauty. The conflict is the movement from childhood to maturity. This means as a writer I can not use metaphors or similes because they do not exist in reality. They are creations of the intellect and stand as buffers between the protagonist and experience. Nouns strung together come closest to the flow of reality. Adverbs and adjectives dilute this flow, so must be used sparingly.
Dialogue must do five things: (1) move the action forward, (2) provide tension intricate to the arc of the story, (3) characterize the speaker, (4) explicate and echo the nuances of the theme, (5) clue the reader as to where the speaker is on the thematic continuum.
The authentic passion to write transcends the writer…Guy Hogan
Time, place and main characters must be given in a short first paragraph. The story must be told through action and dialogue. Description takes the place of exposition. Many times the significant event happens just before the story opens, or will happen just after the story ends.
The story is complete when it can no longer be distilled. The time frame of the story should be as short as possible, hours to a few minutes. Backstory must be eliminated or kept absolutely minimal.
The Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette is an online magazine of serious writing and brazen sexuality.
- We Writers Are Students For Life (pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com)
- Flash Fiction: The Doctor by Guy Hogan (pittsburghflashfictiongazette.com)
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