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Exploring the art of prose

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Author: Madeline Anthes


Author’s Note

I was several months pregnant when I wrote this, daydreaming about what I wanted my son or daughter to inherit from me. What did I want to pass down to them? I thought about how my sister was always told she had the “Rocca eyes” from my mother’s side and how much my brother and father looked identical as children. It made me think of the phrase, “You have your mother’s eyes.” No one literally has their mother’s eyes… but what if they did? How could someone have their mother’s eyes, or smile, or sense of humor, or voice, in a literal way?

I’m usually someone who writes a painstaking draft and only revises it two or three times before the story takes its final form. However, this story went through ten or more revisions. Worldbuilding is new to me, and the first few drafts had way too much backstory. As I revised this story, I trimmed out more and more. I took out some of the extra exposition and the story became sparser. I had to be careful not to strip out necessary information that helped maintain internal logic, but I liked the idea of leaving some things vague as well. I want the reader to want more and ask questions, but not be so confused that it pulls them out of the story.

In terms of form, I usually write fragmented stories (or mosaic stories). I tend to think of flash as shards of memories pieced together to form one story. Flash reminds me of those View-Master toys I played with as a kid. Each time you pull the handle, a new photo appears in the viewer, telling a piece of the overall narrative. Each piece of a fragmented story works on its own, and put together it creates a mosaic.

For stories that touch on trauma, I find this form works especially well since it allows for subtly and brevity. I love writing about violence, but I hate writing about fighting. Going back to the things we inherit, I often think about the ugliness that’s passed down from generation to generation. The things we see and repeat, the shame we perpetuate. But I don’t want to write a scene about a man beating a woman; that’s too awful and too on the nose. I like writing about the subtle ways people exert power over each other, and the ways we fail to protect ourselves. By writing about problems that exist in an alternate reality, I hope to bring some truth and honesty to the problems that exist in our own.

 


MADELINE ANTHES is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. Her chapbook, Now We Haunt This Home Together, is forthcoming with Bone & Ink Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes, and find more of her work at madelineanthes.com.