Learning to unwrite, writing to unlearn
As I learn to write narrative fiction, what I find to be the most frustrating aspect and what I continuously ask myself, over and over, is:
WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I LEARN TO WRITE THE RIGHT WAY TO BEGIN WITH?
I can write. I write rather well. But not narrative fiction. I was taught, primarily, to write expository argument. Essays, essentially. The dreaded five paragraph missive designed to vex every fifteen year old attempting to avoid failure of English, period 3, room 218. (I only just.)
Literary fiction is a whole other swim in the swamp. There are gators and flesh-eating bacteria and rednecks in there. And they all want their pound of flesh. And I never learned how to appease them.
So now, I have to unlearn all that factoid driven, introductory sentence followed by supporting facts followed by conclusion shit. Scrape that crap from inside my skull and then, with a bone clean slate, reintroduce proper, evocative, engaging, thriving narrative. Narrative with an impossible number of rules and nuances that must be learned before you can actually write anything that anybody would ever want to read.
Ugh! It’s the unlearning that is killing me.
I would have loved to have someone, thirty years ago say, “Here, Mole, follow this simple step for dialog — never break it up with exposition. Dialog needs to escalate the tension, back and forth quickly, peak and then release to build again. There’s a rhythm to it. Alright? Okay, let’s practice. Good. Now again. Better. Now again. Excellent!”
Phew! One lesson down. 999 to go.
Oh, wait. Before I continue, I have to get the bristle-brush and cleanser out in order to bleach-clean all the droll research paper trash that litters the inside of my head. Damn! Will I ever be rid of this shit?