The conditions of how and why are not important, except to say one night I had the clearest image of a scene that I ever had so I decided to write it without any expectation of what it was or what it would become. Another scene followed. Then, the characters in the scenes began to reveal themselves to me – not just what they looked like, their inner monologues, or the obvious problems they brought into those initial scenes. But the schools they went to, the music they listened to, the way they felt about their families growing up, the stuff that made them tick.
It is not just that I am a poet, but I have never been good at making stuff up. My attempts at fiction have always been memoir adjacent, retelling real life events with changed names and slightly altered details that could easily be unmasked. In grad school, I’d heard the fiction writers talk about characters following them into the shower, whispering in their ears when they were trying to sleep. I’d heard writers of fiction talk about needing to research specific careers because that is what the character did for a living, as if they as the creator had no choice. I love research, but it always seemed an impossible contortion of the mind – like when the yoga instructor bends into the most advanced form of a pose and you think, “My body just isn’t made that way.”
“My mind doesn’t work like that; I just can’t make stuff up.” That’s what I always said. Then one day, I saw the entire arc of a novel unroll in front of me. I have only seen a few projects in my life so clearly; both were poetry manuscripts, and both were finished – at least to some degree. It is clear to me that there is something here I need to say and that this is the way I need to say it. I expect that I will stumble along this path (spoiler: I am already stumbling), but this new way of walking is what interests me for now. Can a body that doesn’t bend be trained to? Can a mind that feels stubbornly bound to reality suddenly create fiction? And how?