The following is a guest post by K.B. Carle, whose story “Paper Darts” appeared in Issue 16 of Typehouse.
With every new story I write, I try to include a bit of quirk and a bit of me. “Paper Darts” is no exception to this rule.
My bit of quirk appears within the first line, paragraph, or the form the story takes such as a receipt or recipe. The most important role of the quirk is to entice the reader. I consider setting when experimenting with quirks: how a story’s unusual location—inside a cabinet, an eyeball, on an imploding star—might transform a common occurrence such as a marriage, dinner, or a job interview, and encourage readers to read one more sentence. One more paragraph. One more page to see what happens next.
Then, I consider the emotional resonance. Something in my stories that will make readers cringe, cry, or laugh. Something that readers will carry with them even after they’ve finished my story. My “bit of me” is oftentimes the source of the emotional resonance in my stories and in “Paper Darts,” it is my fear of forgetting.
I’m terrified of memory loss triggered by dementia: my earliest introduction to memory loss was witnessing the slow deterioration of my grandmother which prompted me to explore this experience and why dementia frightens me in my writing. Her love of food transformed into forgetting she had just eaten, as evidenced by the crumbs on the plate balancing on her lap. She remembered the names of her children but could no longer remember the faces those names belonged to. She knew, once relocated to a nursing home, that she wanted to return to her bed and chair by the doorway so she could wave to all the cars that honked when they drove down the gravel path.
But she couldn’t remember where she lived.
I observed this deterioration of the mind with my mother during extended stays at the hospital to ensure my grandmother always had someone to talk to. I witnessed her moments of clarity as they were tinged with pitfalls of forgetting. I was fascinated by the life she had lived but frightened by all the moments her mind could no longer grasp.
I try to include these moments when writing about the mind’s decline. My goal is to provide readers with the emotional resonances I carry within me in hopes that they will reflect upon a moment in their life and consider a new angle. Awaken, in their memories, the slightest of details they might have missed.
Combining a bit of quirk and a bit of me is my way of searching for something I might have missed. I encourage all writers to experiment, inserting quirks into their stories. A plant that offers unsolicited advice regarding parenting or a break up between a laptop and USB, making everyday situations more enticing to read. I encourage all readers to take a moment to reflect upon these quirks and emotional resonances within the stories they love, and to remember the reasons why these stories or moments remain with them.
K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. Her stories have appeared in CHEAP POP, genre2, Jellyfish Review, Milk Candy Review, and elsewhere. She can be found online at https://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kbcarl.
This is so useful. Some of my essays include quirk, but I don’t think to incorporate it directly into my writing process. Now you’ve placed the idea in my head, where it will undoubtedly inform future essays. Thank you.