Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Under the Anecdote

by Hannah

The weekly Grub Street Rag includes a quote at the top of the page. Every offering makes the newsletter worth reading, even if don't live in Boston; each week I think, there, they have exhausted the supply of fabulous quotes about writing. Each week, I am reminded that writers love nothing more than to encapsulate the mysteries of life and craft in perfect words.

This week's quote is by Alice Munro:

"Anecdotes don't make good stories. Generally I dig down underneath them so far that the story that finally comes out is not what people thought their anecdotes were about."

I am not a short story writer; it is something I would love to attempt after I wrestle my current project into shape -- and perhaps after I do a little something with the next character banging on the inside of my head. Munro's quote, though, seems a perfect starting point from which to attempt a short story.

What anecdotes to choose? My favorite sound: the shouts and laughter of schoolchildren on the bus from beyond the bend in the road, when I can't see them but know they're on their way home on a bright spring day. Neighbors with a last name similar to Roveto; all you have to do is switch out the T. They are not listed in the phone book. Before we knew of their existence, we got their pizzas, the delivery man insisting their last name ours because the addresses are close as well. The first time I met the woman, my daughter was home sick and we were watching a movie, shades drawn and both of us still in PJs, unshowered of course. This brave woman came to the door and I as hermit crawled out of my cave. The U.S. Post Office had delivered my passport to her; my name, my address, but so, so close. A kernel of a story there, for certain, yes? Hmm...

Thank you, Alice Munro! (And to Sonya, Whitney and Chris-who-is-away for getting this fermenting.)


Lisa said...

Short stories have been percolating around the back of my mind a lot lately too, and they've been sparked by anecdotes. I have a list I keep in a writing notebook where I jot down short story ideas and most have come from this kind of thing. I keep thinking that once I can get the structure of my manuscript nailed down a little better, I'd like to take a short story workshop. Your post has me thinking of new ideas, so I've got my notebook handy!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

I used to rip out pages and corners of pages from magazines and newspapers with ideas, stuffing them into a large white envelope that is now frayed at the edges and tearing near the mouth. I suspect condensing that down into a small notebook, with a key phrase or two, a reference source here and there, would be more productive when I am ready for the inspiration.


Larramie said...

Anecdotes are a wonderful source and/or core of inspiration because they begin with truth.