In what ways does the concept of convergence play a role in your writing life &/or writing process?
Here’s the truth: When I’m writing I don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing. Sure, I understand syntax and the relative effect of objective point of view as compared to limited third-person. But when I’m in the middle of writing a story about a character in a dark room holding a bag of cheese curd and I’m trying to figure out how to make the character or the room or the bag of curd interesting—well, there’s often a moment when I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.
One solution I’ve discovered for this not-knowing is to ask questions about what the story could be, about what could happen. To be clear: I literally write down questions. Sometimes dozens of them. Is Reb (let’s call her Reb) waiting in this room for a friend? Is the bag of curd a gift or a peace offering? What kind of room is it? Is she waiting in the back of a pet store for a black market dealer in chinchilla cheese? Is the room a detention facility at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston? Is Homeland Security grilling Reb? The cheese? Another line of questioning might consider how the story happens: Is Reb the narrator? Heck, is the cheese? If neither, is the narrator interested in the characters’ feelings or in describing the room or in the intricacies of the plot?
I ask these questions—and many others you can probably imagine, there’s really no end—and let my gut guide me toward the most interesting possibilities. Asking, I find, brings the story into sharper focus; the story seems to converge around its own inevitability. Not that a given set of dramatic circumstances (character, conflict, crisis) produces a necessary outcome. (Herman Melville’s bag of cheese curd won’t look much like Zadie Smith’s bag of cheese curd, if you follow me.) But asking questions as I move through a story—especially when I’m stuck—helps me see the potential energy and all the story’s possibilities, even as it helps me push the story toward that inevitable convergence.
Greg Brown, a native of the Great White North, hails from Nanaimo, British Columbia, where he is coordinator of the Vancouver Island Short Film Festival. He holds a Masters degree in English Literature from Memorial University of Newfoundland and is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. A recipient of the Roy Daniels Memorial Essay Prize, his critical writing and stories appear in *Postscript, Paragon, StorySouth, Lenses: Perspectives on Literature, and Tate Street, where he is currently a contributing editor.*