Diving (Back) into Fiction
I started out writing fiction as an undergraduate, and I thought for sure that was what I would write forever. But, lately, I haven’t written much fiction. That’s not true. I don’t normally write fiction, but I create fiction in my head all the time: practicing for conversations I imagine might happen, recreating conversations that did happen but in a way they should have gone, feigning interest in something, pretending I’m winning an Oscar. You know, the usual. But this week I’ve been thinking a lot about fiction, both as a student and as a teacher.
My friend CH commented on a previous post about how I’m coming over to the dark side [switching from CNF to fiction] by taking an improv class, and at first I thought, They’re not the same. But they totally are. They’re both about getting into someone else’s mind and embodying a character that might not be very much like you in a way that is believable and relatable. [It all comes back to empathy…] I’d argue that any good writing should do that. I have to get into the heads of real people–including myself–and write them effectively in CNF, which is hard to have distance and clarity about. But improv and fiction are also both about getting the reader/audience to also relate to and empathize with a character you conjured out of, well, the air, essentially. On the page, it’s about writing a character into being through action, dialogue, conflict, reactions, setting, etc. In improv, it’s about showing a character through voice, physical movement, body language, expression, dialogue, etc.
Our improv instructor has asked us “What’s here?” pointing to the stage area. The answer? Anything you need. What is great about fiction, like improv, is that everything is there for you to use. If you need a rocket ship or a paper towel or an ax, they’re all there. You’re only limited by your imagination. I’m trying to adopt that philosophy in my life. I’m only limited by myself. Obviously, I will never be a man* or an astronaut or play for the NHL, but if there’s something I want to do or see, I am only limited by my own effort to make it happen,** which is why I’m taking this improv class (and, really, teaching a class). I guess “Explore the Possibilities” turned out to be a good mantra for the year after all.
I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to post next week, since I’ve got some readings I’m involved in, but if anyone wants to guest post, shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org and I will set you up. Remember, you’re only limited by yourself and your imagination.
*I guess I could someday decide to become a man. But, probably not.
**And as someone who played for the NHL*** once said, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Take the shot.
***Wayne Gretsky. Or the answer to pretty much every hockey-related question in Trivial Pursuit. Second: Mario Lemieux. Those Candians**** sure do love their hockey (players).
****Fun fact: Trivial Pursuit was invented by Canadians.