I recently read Jess Walter’s book, Beautiful Ruins. There are many things I loved about this book: the way the author explores using the “I” who is present as the action is happening rather than the “I” who is looking back into the past and re-remembering what happened at the moment, the way the author reveals things to the reader using the above method, the idea of inserting a play a character wrote inside the narration, to name a few.
However, a minor thing that sticks in my mind is this idea a character said in the book. Americans talk around the issue instead of coming right out and saying the problem. I agree with this statement and I would go so far as to apply it to writing as well. There is this idea in writing that an author has to cleverly disguise what’s happening or not reveal the ending. But then, how do we account for Flannery O’Connor who tells the reader within the first paragraph the ending of all her short stories?
This is something I think writers need to get over. There is nothing wrong with telling the reader how things are going to end in the beginning because the story isn’t about what will happen to the character; the story is about how the character got in that situation.
I also think writers need to stop writing around the issue. I DO THIS ALL THE TIME. If there is something I don’t feel like writing about, I gloss over it. But every time I do, someone calls me out on it and says, but you missed the point here.
For me, this writing around things comes from fear. I have this one flash fiction piece that can’t find a home. I took another look at it and realized I’m dancing around the story’s purpose. I revised the piece in a way that the first sentence tells the reader point blank how the character feels about the situation. Now the story unfolds for the reader why the character feels this way instead of the dancing around the issue of the character’s feelings.
I feel more confident in the story because it is now the one I really wanted to write all along but I was afraid of being honest with my reader. I won’t be there when a reader reads my story; I can’t open my brain and let the reader see what I was thinking. My story needs to tell the reader why and then explain how the why came to be for the character.