I am over half-way through a writing course on the short story with @UnthankSchool. I’m enjoying it and facing new challenges. Which is good.
Later, I intend to make a list of all the new things I have learned or read, the advice the tutor has given us and his recommendations for improving our writing.
Right now, two of his comments stick in my mind. To paraphrase, one is that reading makes the writer; the other that we must, as writers, strive for obliquity.
The Collins Concise English Dictionary defines obliquity as: the state or condition of being oblique. Hardly helpful.
The word oblique is given 12 different definitions. The only one related to writing is: indirect or evasive.
‘Oblique narration’ is defined as another name for indirect speech. Now any writer knows the difference between direct and indirect speech. Certainly one of those ‘how-to-do-it’ books on creative writing will explain if you don’t.
Another definition of obliquity is: a moral or mental deviation.
Hmm. So it seems my writing should be indirect, evasive and contain a moral deviation.
But what kind of short stories do I want to write? Easier to say which ones I do not want to write – those kind which used to be published in magazines aimed at women who take coffee breaks rather than drink their coffee on the run or at their desk. Just as well I don’t want to write those stories as not many, if any, magazines publish them anymore. They are ‘old hat’.
But modern stories are oblique. Some frustratingly vague. I like to read a story and learn what it is about and what happens to the main character, both during and at the end of the story.
I am working on a collection of stories about people dying in unusual ways. Unusual = not usual = deviation, so OK there. It includes a couple of stories from the genre of magic realism; definitely a deviation from the norm of human happenings. I have tackled the contentious practice of female genital mutilation. The present draft of this is not so oblique. Try harder, is the recommendation. I have written about the day I feared, from the TV news, that our soldier son had been killed during the Iraq war. No obliquity there. Our dread of then worse scenario was almost physical. One story has become two stories as I have 2 viewpoints equally strong. At least, I think so. One story is a murder – or is it? The reader decides. That, I suspect, might be my tutors’ definition of oblique.
The openings of two of my stories are in the section of this site Showcase.
I continue to write and read short stories. The reading blog comes next.