Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
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Replicating Thoughts

The literal origin of this piece is pretty simple: I had a job that involved, one day, research from a Scientific American from the 1870s, and next to the article that I was looking for was a small piece describing the surprising affordability of hiring a team of American kangaroo hunters over local Australian ones. It briefly described some of their techniques. But even though it was only a single paragraph, the extent of the image it presented was so evocative and unusual to me that I felt the need to replicate it, which is what I think I get out of fiction: the pleasure of replicating a pattern of thought. I’d been reading a lot of Jim Shepard at the time and was trying to teach myself the patience that I feel in his work, the idea that forcing out story after story (trying to keep up with other writers) doesn’t mean too much if the premises aren’t there. I’m more receptive to the idea of inspiration than I used to be, and these images struck me.

But language and tone are my main tools across every piece I write, so the act of taking a story from premise to final draft is the act of teasing out where I can apply those tools. Characters and their relationships are born out of the necessity for space to build out the language of the imagery. If they, say, don’t end up with names, it’s usually because they’ve been developed out as far as they need to do this. For me it’s the odd story where character is first. Plot is the same: a time component for the tone to mature within. The violence too—though I do feel guilty about this story in the sense that Cormac McCarthy is my favorite, and a model in many ways, and maybe I did not treat this aspect seriously enough. My goal though, in the end, is to somehow evoke in a reader something like the original thought that I had when I first knew I would write the piece. And if I get anywhere close to that, then I consider it a success.  end  

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