Exploring the art of prose


Author: Michelle Go-un Lee

Author’s Note

This story came from an image I had sitting in the dark of late winter, curled up on my couch: a man hurling a gangly girl into summer sky. I watched the girl fly over me, as if I were lying on grass, and briefly glimpsed her flight pattern, her befuddled face.

From there, I felt out what seemed true to that initial image—it is sunny and there are water balloon scraps everywhere. The man is the girl’s father. He is strong, and the girl still young enough to be small. And maybe because I was watching the girl and was not the girl in my initial daydream (evening-dream?), I felt that the split of multiple selves was also true. What would the perspective of another version of that girl be, watching herself fly before taking flight herself?

Craft is always in service of the vision, the propulsion needed to launch a compelling nugget of story into motion. But besides the necessity of roughly stacking words together into those first initial drafts, there is also a lot of play that can be done with form in the process. The screenwritten-esque encounter, for example, was something I had a lot of fun visualizing as a film or television scene. And though the 1-2-3 structure played an important practical role in making sure each version of girl was clearly demarcated, it also gave me the liberty to create a non-linear structure; instead of ordering events by when they happened temporally, each version of girl is intertwined into each other. The goal was to create a sense of time that felt more like taffy: pulled slower for some and faster for others, but ultimately all enmeshed together.

Many of the craft decisions I made in this story were driven by a desire to mess around with what I felt could be sustained in the piece. I say play and fun knowing that the story contains a very particular kind of familial violence, one that is difficult to acknowledge, let alone write. But I believe this is one of the ways writers can approach a narrative that strikes deep: to latch onto the joy of the writing process, to find inspiration in watching a girl soar through air.


MICHELLE GO-UN LEE is a fiction candidate at the Litowitz MFA+MA at Northwestern University. She was born and raised in southern California, and currently resides in Chicago.