Friday, June 8, 2012

'Big Empty': An Explanation

A week ago, I launched this blog with an introduction to who I am and what motivates me as a writer. Now, I'd like to share the first piece of short fiction that I ever wrote, titled 'Big Empty'. To clarify, I've written many stories throughout my life, but this one is where I truly found my voice as a writer, the ones that came before were just practice.

I originally wrote 'Big Empty' for a college creative writing course. The inspiration came from various images and dialogue that had been floating around in my head for a while, along with some leftover teenage angst that was carrying over into my young adult years. While I had written detective stories, horror stories, and a couple of lame attempts at full-on novels, this was the first time I felt confident enough as a writer to stop trying to replicate what I was reading, and just write.

The basic plot of 'Big Empty' is about an angry teenage male who's decided to leave his home in British Columbia, with the dream of starting a new life on the other side of the country. Along the way, he encounters some harsh luck and strange characters, and his dream of a new beginning looks less likely the further he goes. I like to think of it as a twist on the 'coming-of-age' genre, as well as the the travelogue format. The plot is interesting enough, but the magic of the story lies in it's style, which I'll speak about below.

With past stories, I never did much revision. I would just write them, read them, show my family and friends, and move on. Since I wrote 'Big Empty' for a creative writing workshop, I received a lot of (mostly positive) feedback from my classmates and my teacher. Rather than just stubbornly leave the story as I originally wrote it, I obsessively editied, revised, and re-wrote it, resulting in over ten drafts before I finally handed in a final version. The story ended up being chosen for a yearly compilation of the college's best creative writing. It was amazing to see my word-babies born in print, that was a major confidence booster.

As for the style of the narrative, it came to me as a sort of happy accident. Originally, the prose was written traditionally. Then, when my first draft came in 1000 words over the limit for the assignment, I began to cut extra words. Then, I began to cut some of the necessary words. What was left ended up being a very action driven, stream of consciousness, point of view style, where the narrator simply states his thoughts and actions, without the use of 'I' or 'and'. What began as an attempt to meet the word limit, resulted in an effect that I believe makes the story come alive, and emphasizes the attitude and personality of the narrator. I usually don't reveal how I came to choose this style, but like I've said before, if I can't be honest to a bunch of strangers...

I think that's enough of an explanation, I'll now let the story speak for itself. I've divided it into 4 parts, which I'll post over the next week or so. Though I plan to post my more recent writing, and eventually some new writing, I thought this story was a good way to introduce my writing style and set the tone for my further writing. Enjoy it. Or hate it. Just have something to say or think about it and I'll be satisfied.

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