“when we leave our characters in sort of these vagaries, these big emotions and these big ideas, we don’t have anything to hang the characters or the emotions on.”
-Gwen E. Kirby
In the second part of my conversation with Gwen E. Kirby we talk about developing characters that feel real to people, about writing at this moment in time, writing about women, and the question that Gwen Kirby doesn’t get asked often enough,
Gwen E Kirby is the author of the fabulous debut collection of short stories Shit Cassandra Saw. has a MFA from Johns Hopkins university. PhD from the University of Cincinnati and is the Associate Director of Programs and finance for the Sewanee Writers. Conference at the University of the South where she’s also teaching students about creative writing. Her writing has appeared in One Story Tin House Guernica. Smoke Long Quarterly, and many other places.
“So little of life is comprised of huge dramatic running out into the rain to cry “Stella!” If we saved our short fiction for only those moments, not only am I not totally sure what we would write about, but I’m not sure it would be all that accurate a portrayal of what it is to be a person.”
-Gwen E. Kirby
On this week’s podcast I’m in conversation with author Gwen E. Kirby, whose debut collection Sh*t Cassandra Saw was one of my absolute favorites from last year.
In our conversation we talk about the stories in her new collection, the benefit of a fantastic title, how to take an idea and develop it into a story.
Next week, in the second part of this interview, we will talk more about developing characters that feel real to people, about writing at this moment in time, writing about women, and the question that Gwen Kirby doesn’t get asked often enough.
It was a delightful conversation and I hope it’ll leave you inspired and ready to get to your own stories!
P. S. Mary Robinette Kowal, who I interviewed a few episodes ago, is offering a class this Sunday on diagnosing (and fixing) story problems. I always leave her classes feeling as if someone has flipped my head open and dropped in a bunch of sparklers. You might want to check it out.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of The Glamourist Histories series of fantasy novels and the a three time Hugo Award winner. Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.
We’re rounding out our month with a multiple-award winning, working writer’s advice to take a look at scenes (or stories) from another angle. It seems to be working for her, so let’s give it a try! Thanks for sharing, Mary!
Take the last scene [or story – Ed.] that you wrote. Now rewrite it from the point of view of a secondary character. You have to keep all the physical actions and dialog in the same order, but make it clear what is at stake for the new POV character. Why do they say the things they do? What are they trying to achieve?
Now go back to your original scene [or story – Ed.] and adjust it to incorporate the new things you’ve learned about your secondary character.
Often when a scene seems flat, it’s because we haven’t thought through the motivations of any of the people in the scene except the point of view character.
Work the words vermillion and musky somewhere in the next 250 words you write.
Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of the GLAMOURIST HISTORIES series of historical fantasy novels, and the 2011 Hugo Award-winning short story “For Want of a Nail.” Her short fiction appears in Clarkesworld, Cosmos and Asimov’s. Mary, a professional puppeteer, lives in Chicago. Visit her online at maryrobinettekowal.com.