Sometimes I write fiction, and sometimes I work on fiction to procrastinate from nonfiction, which feels like a relatively healthy decision? Sort of. I’m doing it now, on my day off, tucked up in a corner of this coffee shop that is also a vintage furniture store so all the tables and chairs are really cute but annoyingly wobbly. Stupid, I know. I live in Brooklyn.
A little while back my writing group kind of fell into this non-writing slump—I mean, I imagine most of us were writing independently, but we weren’t getting our acts together in time for meetings, so we just drank and enjoyed each others’ company and played Bananagrams. But then we started doing writing exercises, normal stuff at first, until one of our ranks suggested this exercise that was basically therapy in disguise, in which all the other members of your group take a few minutes to shout out things about your work—threads and themes, any pattern that might be discernible. Some people were really into the idea; I, unsurprisingly, very loudly protested against it. But when my turn came and I began to transcribe everything that was being said, well, HAHAHA why had I ever protested? It was fantastic. I thought I’d share a few observations with you here. I set about half my stories here and half in the UK, FYI:
- about characters that are dissatisfied with situations and have made compromises and feel dirty and contaminated and need to break out of something—’maybe I’ll do this and it’ll let me escape’—but there really is no escape for most of them
- background sadness in England—in all of the stories, actually
- unkempt, gritty realism
- best cringeworthy sex scenes!
- GOOD AT AWKWARDNESS
- “your sex is like beautifully awkward and cringeworthy”
- sex is never positive or negative—it’s part of everything: money, power, social interaction
- sense of a social system that is taken for granted: most American writers don’t feel that hierarchical structure and feel the need to introdcue that, but I overlay that knowledge and expectation—you have to exist in this world and deal with the pre-set divisions
- like ‘Upstairs Downstairs’—even American stories
The takeaway: my sex scenes are extraordinarily awkward and everyone wants something from someone else, and all of my characters are imbued with a sense of class-bound despair. I’m not being sarcastic here: this is perfect.