Thursday, September 5, 2013

Return to Fiction (Writing)

--You may have noticed that I didn't blog yesterday.  I was working on writing a short story, and the morning zipped away from me--but in a good way!

--I am still working on short stories that link together.  I see the problem I will have, the problem of having too many stories and not wanting to lose a one.

--Yesterday's story involves the two characters who have gone into the ministry--and they're characters you wouldn't expect to have gone into the ministry.  One is a gay man in a committed marriage (to another man) and one is a woman who went into the ministry when she was deep into midlife--but she's my mother's age, so she was one of the first women to head off to seminary to be a Lutheran minister.

--My story will revolve around whether or not a church can be welcoming when a transgender person who is undergoing the transitional time comes in the door.  My female character was too old to be the head of the church and my gay man was too early in his career.  What to do?

--Then I had an idea which seemed like a flash of brilliant insight:  he could be serving her church during his internship year of seminary, and she could be the emeritus pastor who is leading the church while they look for a full-time minister.  It seems to be working.

--Once I would have worried about depicting a gay man in my fiction, about not being offensive, about not appropriating culture--much the way I once worried about creating minority characters.  Now I have similar worries about creating a transgender character.

--One of my colleagues at work, who is also a former student, posted on Facebook a guide of what to talk about--or not talk about--with transgendered people.  One of the don'ts:  don't ask about genitalia.

--Yes, I admit, I was shocked.  I was brought up with the idea that polite people don't discuss many things:  finances, religion, politics.  We didn't have to be told that we shouldn't talk about genitals in polite company.  Really?  People think that's OK?  Really?

--Good to know, though.  Perhaps I'll work it into a scene.

--I've decided it's time to start sending my stories out into the world again.  Why did I stop?

--One reason:  the high cost of postage.  But now that I can submit electronically, I'll do that.  I don't mind paying a small fee to submit short stories electronically.  But paying $4.00 to submit poems? Postage is cheaper.

--I have always wanted my work to appear in Glimmer Train.  And the month of September is one of the months where it costs nothing to submit.  So, I'll begin there.

--If you, too, want to submit, the information is here.

--It's good to return to fiction.  I love the possibilities for symbolism.  My ministers work at Jamestown Lutheran Church.  They work there because they happen to be in the area.  But I love the idea of Jamestown as the first English colony, the fact that my ministers have been early settlers (first generation of women to be ordained, first group of openly gay men to be ordained with no chance of censure), the fact that they're called to yet another new territory.

--One thing I must guard against in my fiction writing:  the names can be too obvious, not believable.  My transgendered character's name is Vic (Victor, transitioning to Victoria), which has all sorts of symbolic possibilities.  I want a whisper back to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  There's also the movie Victor Victoria

--Yes, it's good to return to fiction.  There's a sense of play in fiction that I don't always feel in other genres.  Of course, there's also the discipline of structure.  I'm usually a big believer in the narrative arc, in the Aristotelian requirements of a good drama.  I often begin by thinking about the conflict.

--Once I was a belligerent student who declared that fiction didn't need a conflict to be good.  My favorite undergraduate English professor challenged me to find a piece of fiction of any kind, good or bad, that didn't have a conflict.  Wise woman--I couldn't find a one.

--And here I sit, thirty years later, wrestling with conflict, determining the turning point, strategizing about how to get the story where it needs to go.

--What fun!

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