Summer Loving

This summer I’ll have at least two new publications out: My story of high-octane American childhood grief, “A History of Burning” will be published by Midwestern Gothic and “The Bangor Crows”, a tale of a woman overwhelmed by depression and the mystery of the chthonic evil that inhabits the town that Stephen King calls home, in Longleaf Review.

I’ve only just finished grading for the semester, a taking a quick jaunt to Wisconsin for my dad’s 60th birthday, then returning home to write a goddamned novel if it kills me.

It’s been two years of depression and writer’s block and it’s time to get busy writing. I’ve found ways to keep engaged: teaching writing and editing for Outlook Springs, but I’ve hardly written anything, paralyzed by the gap between how great I felt finishing up my MFA and the harsh reality afterward of my blank screen with the monsters of what-is-art-for-especially-in-the-face-of-advancing-fascism chanting, chanting, chanting, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” and shutting down all avenues of escape.

Creating characters, a whole world, is like getting into a new relationship: you have to be ready for the deep dive, to learn another person completely. But since the end of my MFA and the aftermath of the election, I have this bandwidth problem, this lack of signal, this literary attention-deficit disorder where I can’t pay enough attention to do the deep dive, to put in the time and attention of making people. There’s enough horror in the world; why should I torture fictional people too?

And suddenly, I am inspired to write a story where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

 

 

The Stalker’s Would-be Girlfriend?

I’ve been on the staff of several literary journals now and I am shocked at the prevalence/frequency of one particular species of story:

The guy-sees-girl-and-is-transformed trope.

Almost always, it’s a very unhealthy obsession. It’s often not even the infamous Manic Pixie Dream Girl either, but just any woman. More than not, she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but frequently there’s no real identifying character there at all. And she never gets her own arc in the story.

Hell, sometimes, they never even meet the woman. They see her from across a bar or coffee shop and are apparently haunted by the idea of her.

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A fine example.

When they do meet, these stories tend to start post-breakup then spend the majority of its wordcount relating their relationship. There’s no stakes in this type of story at all.

And often, the change the male “protagonist” goes through is not good. Maybe he gets bumped out of his boring life by their interaction, maybe. In many cases, it seems like they can’t wait to get back to living their pre-stalking sadsack life.

There’s also a variation in this trope that shows up with a surprising frequency: in the end, the guy kills the girl. These stories make me want to googlestalk you and report your whereabouts to the authorities.

I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t write these kinds of stories. However, I am saying that it’s a pretty worn trope, we’ve all seen it a million times, it’s pretty sexist, there’s little stakes involved, and it smells almost exactly like a too-specific dating profile where we know you’re basically subtweeting about your most recent ex.

P.S. Also, in worn-out trope news: maybe chill with stories that open with a dead woman.