Hey, all! In honor of the new year, the Merry Fates are using you as test subjects as we experiment with form and content of our blog. We’ve been discussing amongst our selves what we want this blog to become as we move onward in our careers. We know we want to keep it primarily a fiction blog, so no worries! We’ll each continue to post a story a month, and will reserve the fourth week of the month for something fun.
Today we’re introducing the new feature: Merry Fates Round Table. This is like a she said – she said – she said post where we chat (like we always do) about everything under the sun. Only now, we’re going to clean up the chat and post it and generally try to keep ourselves entertaining and informative. Beware: we make fun of each other a lot, so occasionally the chats might go slightly haywire!
BONUS: I might be sneaking a contest into this post. Read on! 😀
Maggie: Soooooo. Since we’re going to be doing roundtables and this blog is about us, let’s be totally self-involved and talk about ourselves for the first one. Not our small-town roots and the boys we have loved and lost, but how we write. SO Tess gets to go first. Because she’s alphabetically compromised.
Tessa: (I needed more gin but am back now.) (How’s that for an intro to how I write?)
Tessa: This is how I write MF in particular, right?
Maggie: Yes. This segment is not long enough to explore the insane nuances and dysfunctional intricacies of how you write a novel. Trust me. I know what they are.
Tessa: :p My ideal MF fiction is written thusly: I have a first line, a climactic moment, and a main character. Especially the first line and climactic/ending moment. Then I sit down at my computer, type the first line, and make things up for a couple of hours until I’m done. And it’s brilliant.
Maggie: That’s actually sort of humblingly more organized than me. And I thought I was the one with a process.
Tessa: Well, that’s just the good ones. The bad days I’m like, "Oh great internet god, Wikipedia! give me an IDEA!!!"
Maggie: And it asks you for a donation
Brenna: I’ll admit straight-up, I have no process
Maggie: Well, for me, I think it’s pretty much best represented by a story that never got posted to MF through a variety of factors. I was driving my Camaro one day and I noticed there was a grasshopper on my windshield. Just where the hood met the glass. So while it must’ve been hot as hell with the heat of a V8 coursing over its little insectile body, it was sort of shielded from the warp speeds I was driving. Anyway, I needed a story for MF. I was driving, and thinking, and listening to music very loud, and praying not to see any cops, and then I ran out of road and pulled into my parents’ driveway. The grasshopper jumped off once I’d stopped, and I thought, I just transported a grasshopper about 7.2 miles. And I thought, you could really inadvertently bring a lot of strange things stuck to your car. Like a demon. That’d be awesome. That COULD BE A STORY. What if you . . . and there you go. I let that percolate, sit down at the computer, set my egg timer for an hour and GO BABY GO as they say. That’s my process.
Tessa: That’s how stories should happen, I always think. I’m jealous of you when you do that. Can I say that?
Maggie: You may say that. I will preen. Wait, why does it make you jealous? That’s what you just said YOU did!
Brenna: I work pretty much the same way, and sometimes it drives me crazy–it goes, idea, character, poking around and trying things until I figure out what the end should be. And then sometimes the end means going back and changing a lot of the things leading up to it.
Tessa: because I overthink my stories. I don’t start with a concept or a ‘what if’. I feel like I need a complete idea. Like, I need the what if AND the THIS IS WHAT. I never am confident unless I have the ending. Maybe that’s why i like to have an ending first. So I don’t have to revise the short story much.
Maggie: Well, I think the reason I do it that way is because I can’t do that when I’m writing a novel. I can’t write a novel without knowing the very final scene.
Brenna: It’s strange, for long work I almost always have an ending point in mind. So, basically, ditto Maggie.
Maggie: And Merry Sisters is a place for me to just be totally indulgent, take an idea, and run it into the ground like I used to as a badly behaved teen writer. When I didn’t know you were supposed to warm the idea up first and actually cool it down and take the saddle off before you put it away.
Tessa: and I don’t. I have a hard time knowing how my novel will end, but I HAVE to know how to end my story, or I stress SO HARD.
Maggie: So it’s safe to say we all work opposite to our long work? That’s weird.
Brenna: maybe we’ve arrived at some significant discovery
Tessa: For me, the novel can grow, and sprawl and be whatever it wants, but the short story should be a BANG, and the bang always comes with the end. so I need the end to start. I think I can say yes to that.
Brenna: Even if I think I know the bang for an MF story, I get proven wrong. I get to the end and it doesn’t work, so I have to figure out the real ending
Tessa: Interesting! All my best MF stories started with the ending.
Maggie: Oh, so true, Brenna.
Tessa: Like, ASH TREE SPELL, started with the image of her lips falling off and turning into petals, and then she cuts out his heart. That was the first image of the story: the end.
Maggie: Sigh. I love that story of yours. Maybe I should rethink my life strategy. I used to try to plan them out to the end. And all that happened is that I ended up pounding this square peg into a round hole, and then texting Tess and saying WHAT SHOULD I DO and she says JUST KILL EVERYONE and then I have to do something I hadn’t planned either way.
Tessa: hahahahahah. I do say that ever time. To me, the point of a short story is WHAT CHANGES. And the change comes with the climax/end. So it makes sense for me to want to start with that.
Maggie: Huh, I was just thinking back about my stories and the initial genesis of them, and I don’t think I always think of the beginning.
Brenna: so are you an image-person, Tess? You see something captivating and figure out where it came from?
Tessa: ….. yes?
Brenna: I know for me, I always just think of an idea, and sometimes the idea’s in the middle.
Maggie: Yes, that. I just think what I think of is rarely the end. It’s often a premise, which is not the same as a beginning.
Tessa: what kind of idea though? A philosophical question? an image? what do you mean by "idea?"
Brenna: for me, idea is more like what Maggie said: premise.
Maggie: Okay, like, Heart Shaped Box. I wanted an epidemic where the only way you could survive it was to eat someone else’s heart.
Tessa: yeah, that makes sense, Maggie, like the premise you were playing with a while back of "the world on fire" but you never found the story.
Maggie: I wanted to know what that world would look like. That was my idea.
Tessa: ok, yes. that’s the same thing as the fire one i just mentioned
Tessa: So you two start macro. And I try to start micro.
Brenna: yeah, I almost never start micro
Tessa: that totally makes sense to me, as I think back on my favorite stories of yours. (both of yours)
Maggie: Wellllll . . . I was going to argue with that, but then I realized that my other recent fav, Papillon, was what if there were people who only lived for three days, what would that do to your religion. So yeah, I guess so.
Brenna: I have to reign in my Themes and try to make them manageable and accessible.
Maggie: It’s funny, Brenna, because with yours, I always feel like yours are about the people.
Tessa: what’s cool, is I think looking at our styles, you’d think that Maggie and I did things the same way, and Brenna was different, just because Brenna tends toward more "literary" and we’re more "commercial."
Brenna: I do love characters (it’s like an addiction), but with the short pieces, they almost always evolve from the premise.
Maggie: Yeah, I agree with that, Tess.
Brenna: whereas with novels everything I’ve written so far has stated with a character
Maggie: Again, the opposite from the shorts.
Tessa: lol, and for me, novels start with premise! lol.
Maggie: I’m . . . actually learning about my process here.
Tessa: ME TOO
Brenna: this is like a scientific principle
Maggie: I feel so juicy and virtuous.
This will make next story so much easier. ;p
Tessa: I should always be drinking during these roundtables. Was there an Arthurian knight who drank all the time? That = me.
Maggie: I was trying to think of a really pithy response, and totally lost. What do you guys think about length? How does the online format change what you do with that? I know it means I always have that wordcount thought in the back of my head.
Brenna: well, I used to feel like when I was writing an online story, it needed to be short–like flash-short
Tessa: me too. I check more than ever. But as the one of use who tends toward the longest stories… I feel like most of the time I need at least 2k to tell a good one. And I agree with that, Brenna, I used to think that, too. The stories I posted on my personal blog pre-MF were all short. 1500 or less.
Maggie: We all started really short. I remember being shocked once that my favorite stories were all the "long" ones.
Brenna: now, I’m not so rigid about it and the stories feel more natural, like I’m just letting them be whatever length is best for that story
Tessa: I think of it as having started writing "vignettes" and now I write actual stories
Maggie: I remember being shocked that they didn’t feel too long.
Tessa: they shouldn’t, if theyr’e good
Brenna: I think it took me a while to think about pacing, rather than length
Tessa: GOOD POINT
Brenna: if something is paced right, it won’t feel long or too short
Tessa: and voice has so much to do with that
Maggie: It was weird getting used to characterization in a short.
Tessa: like, your prose poems, Brenna, are so short, technically, but can feel epic.
Maggie: It’s like a bad date, you get in and mess around and get out as quickly as possible.
Tessa: (in a good way) hahaha.
Maggie: Leaving as much of an impact in as short a time as you can.
Brenna: the characterization is a good point–it has to be so economical
Tessa: it’s taught me to try to figure out how to tell the reader everything they need to know about one character in one sentence.
Brenna: you have to really know that character, at least for the duration of the story
Maggie: Yes, I would’ve never thought that was possible before. Actually, I would’ve never thought it was possible from me before. It’s pretty safe to say it changed everything about the way I write. I think you can tell a shocking influence of my shorts on LINGER vs. SHIVER, which was pre-Merry Sisters.
Tessa: heheh, and it’s funny,because that would be the one thing I’d say I’ve learned from your writing, Maggie, that is the most important: instant characterization. From Brenna I’ve learned about insta- atmosphere. One single word teaching me everything a bout Character from Maggie, and one word teaching me everything about mood/atmosphere from Brenna.
Maggie: I feel like that’s true. And from you, Tess, I learned that you could talk about the most mundane of things and make them sound important. Also, you do epic in a small space really, really well. I’m still try
ing to work out that one.
Tessa: This = Group Hug Time
Maggie: that sense of history before the story began. Yeah, it’s probably indulgent of us. But it’s the end of another year together. so when else would we?
Tessa: It’s good for us to know though
Brenna: Tess has also been great at demonstrating how to write really raw and visceral emotional scenes.
Maggie: Okay, this is really what I want to steal from Tess: she writes new folklore.
Brenna: now that I’m actually thinking about it, that’s had a big impact on my stories and my style
Maggie: the stories of hers that I hate to love because they’re so good feel old and organic and like they already existed. Ash Tree, for instance, is a good example. Death Ship.
Tessa: If you guys make me cry I will not forgive you. Just sayin.
Maggie: You shouldn’t drink before these things and then you wouldn’t.
Brenna: hahaha–Tess is sentimental!
Tessa: It’s true. But it’s Christmas time
Maggie: And with Brenna, I remember it’s the way you say things that humbled me from the beginning.
Brenna: (if I mock you, you won’t cry)
Tessa: Yeah, I remember reading parts of Brenna’s stories out loud. Because I knew they needed to be spoken.
Maggie: It was so fricking . . . beautiful. Efficient. Spare.
Tessa: Yes. One word. The Queen of Diction.
Maggie: You could pull out any sentence, put it by itself, and I’d say, I’d buy that book.
Maggie: I never really thought about CRAFT before Brenna. And that sounds terrible.
Brenna: aw, know you guys are making me squirm and blush!
Maggie: But I’d thought about storytelling, and about emotion, but not about actually sitting down and saying, hey, everything should matter in about four different ways.
Brenna: because I’m not as good at being sentimental, so I just get awkward 😛
Maggie: That’s okay. I’m done. I think.
Tessa: you’re cute when you’re awkward.
Brenna: Maggie’s stories charm, gets me every time. There’s always something so vivid and real and wry, even when I know it’s fiction, I get seduced by the world and the people.
Tessa: Maggie, I am sometimes just sitting there, quiet and dumb, when I read something in your stories. And I stare at a single sentence and think "how did she DO THAT?" You make me want to read anything.
Maggie: happy sigh No really happy sigh My dogs just all sighed too. I’ll take
Brenna: that’s the short version of what I was trying to say.
Maggie: I know. We are so damn sentimental tonight. But I don’t care. We can cut all that out for public usage and I wanted to say it.
Brenna: it’s Christmas!
Tessa: Charm is good, too. Like I’d follow her stories into hell because they smiled at me.
Maggie: Because face it, what we have is pretty damn awesome.
Tessa: and so complimentary
Maggie: And look at what we all did this year. It’s not just bull and rosy back patting.
Brenna: no. kidding. This was a big fat year of awesomeness
Tessa: OMG YOU GUYS WE’RE ALL AWESOME AND GOING TO BE PUBLISHED. Ahem. Ok, I’m done. But I have a really good feeling about these roundtable things.
Maggie: That’s the gin.
NOTE: We were chatting the night before Christmas Eve. Forgive, if you will, the season’s, erm, sentiments getting in the way of us making you laugh. Unless you laughed at us being mushy, in which case, you’d fit in with us SO WELL.
If you DID make it all the way to the bottom of this post, here’s the contest: anyone who can guess which characters in Arthurian legend we nick-named each other will win something awesome. It might include one of the copies of SHIVER that I’ve marked up with lots of notes and jokes and cartoons making fun of Sam (who I love). Leave your guesses in the comments. (Hint: none of them are very obscure, and they *could* be bad guys.)
Contest ends, um… Sunday morning when I wake up. If nobody has guessed correctly, I’ll draw a random name from the comments! 😀