Thursday, January 12, 2012

MFA Greensboro Alum Lynne Barrett Discusses Her Writing Process

TSP: Lynne Barrett: My Writing Process, a Tango

A story, I’ve discovered, is an imp in disguise. At first, some happy morning at my writing desk, it promises to be easygoing. But soon it drags me from the table during dinner and drives me right past the turn for work. I fill scraps of paper with its slightest hints. While a friend is telling me about a sad situation, the imp suggests a character’s next move, and I have to muffle a laugh. 
I work at the story till there’s at least a full draft and preferably several overstuffed ones. I have learned it’s best not to question or criticize it too much till I have a lot amassed, because the story will, as I revise it, soon enough bring despair. Often, it has beckoned me to try some form I thought would be fun that turns out to be hellishly hard. To orchestrate a narrative that uses the links and “pages” of a website or to construct an abecedarian about a hurricane season is obviously a challenge. But what isn’t? To show two lovers awake during a thunderstorm, one telling the other a story from his past, seems simple, but the telling, the listening, the questions asked and answered, have to change the relationship forever, which isn’t simple at all. Nor is a tale that spirals through thirty years. And what’s to be done when a malicious gossip columnist spits out lizards? As I revise, I find that every invention and deletion involves delicate negotiations between the characters, form, and tone, and when I get impatient and yank, the imp tells me I’m going to ruin the whole thing if I keep that up.

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