Thursday, October 7, 2010

Intro to Creative Writing

At this point I'm pretty well decided on diving into what is easily the most superfluous of majors: English with a Creative Writing concentration. I'm baking on somewhat more practical minors (Hispanic Studies and Political Science) to keep me in funds and out of cardboard boxes in the street. I was partially inspired by a grad student at Hamline, Evan Kingston, who got his B.A. in Creative Writing from none other than Macalester College. A few weeks ago he finished writing his first novel for a homework assignment. That was when I knew I'd found my major.

Naturally, the prerequisite for any Creative Writing major is to take the Into to Creative Writing course, which I'm currently taking with Marlon James (author of John Crow's Devil and The Book Of Night Women-- which just recently came out: http://www.macalester.edu/whatshappening/special/james/). Marlon is excellent and the assignments jog the mind into story-crafting in ways I hadn't explored before. Our first assignment, "garbageology," consisted of confiscating 4-5 pieces of trash from someone's waste bin and then using the disposed items to construct a character.

Each day brings a new "banned word" -- a list that (so far) includes:

1. pulsate and/or undulate (rationale: "No one uses those words in real conversation.")
2. typical (rationale: "Nothing is typical.")
3. thud esp. a dull thud (rationale: "There is no such thing as a sharp thud.")
4. indescribable (rationale: "You're the writer, dummy-- you of all people should be able to describe it.")

Perhaps the most enlightening aspect of the class has been taking leaves out of the books of established authors. There's Chekhov's rule: "If a gun appears in Act I it must go off in Act III"; and Hemingway's minimalistic iceberg analogy: reveal only the surface level of the conflict and leave the reader to infer the rest. It's also been refreshing to be able to write fiction for homework assignments. Typically I'm too busy with class work to indulge in fantastical side tangents, but now the class work and the tangents have been consolidated into the same project. The class has definitely been a promising introduction to Mac's English Department and I'm looking forward to meeting more of the faculty in the future.