Margaret Atwood – amazing author – teaches an online Master Class that I’ve been taking. The latest assignment was to write a story using the following technique:
1. Make a list of 10 events that could spark a story.
2. Make a list of 10 characters.
3. Make a list of 10 story “Legos”, such as folk tales, family stories. I think of them as archetypal stories, the kind that stick around due to some deep significance to our psyches. (She also calls them story shells or foundational stories.)
(Note: Instead of 10 each, I added items until I seemed to run out of steam. I got to 18 items for each list.)
4. Choose one item from each list, and begin a new story.
The three things I chose were:
Event: Pooping in a doorway.
Character: Artist preparing for first show.
Lego: The Shoemaker and the Elves.
I feel like I need to explain myself concerning the event I chose.
One of the rules of spontaneous writing that I like to follow is to write down whatever comes to mind. Not too long ago, I was driving somewhere (I can’t remember where), when I saw in the shadow of a closed business entryway, a woman, pants down and squatting. It’s not the first time I’ve witnessed a woman pooping in public, either. Seeing that happen, twice, made an impression on me. But I didn’t want to write about it.
Unfortunately, this became a case of “Don’t think about elephants” ensuring that one will think about elephants. Or, in this case, public defecation.
So, the choice was made. And the story worked. I hesitate to say it was good, because, with almost everything I write, I go through a honeymoon phase where I’m infatuated with the most recent thing I have written. But over time, my feelings and ideas about it often change. So I’ll type up the story, let it sit a bit, and then maybe I will share it here.