Hayden's Ferry Review


Fiction Dismantled

Photo by Todd McLellan
See his Disassembly collection here.

As an intern for the Piper House, I read a lot of  stories submitted to Hayden's Ferry Review. When I'm six stories deep, running on coffee fumes and chocolate-covered espresso beans, form stories ignite my curiosity and pull me in. There is something attractive about a story that looks like a list, or a series of dictionary entries, or even a water bill. Postmodern experimental fiction allows readers to experience the emotional range of the traditional narrative through a fresh perspective while allowing writers to explore and experiment in their craft with a new flexibility.

I think the process of creating a form is a bit like dismantling a clock. Essentially, you're taking elements of the story—important elements integral to the heart of the piece, such as objects or themes—and using them to communicate the story in a fresh and entertaining way. My writing teachers all tell me that everything has to be earned. That, "if I remove one element, the entire story should fall apart. If not, it hasn't earned its spot." The same is true for a clock. Each part has to work in perfect harmony with the others, or else we lose time.

Here's one:

Hannah Wood's telling of Romeo and Juliet, in Blackbird's Fall 2011 Vol. 10 No. 2 issue, is a fresh and entertaining version of the classic. The story takes the shape of a science experiment that tests the strength of love. Wood adds versatility to her version by measuring the infamous duo against several other power couples, ranging from Daisy and Gatsby to Lancelot and Guinevere. For clarity (and some color), Wood offers a Venn diagram and an ionic bonding chart to illustrate their chemical behavior in any situation.

Working on a form story? Have a favorite story that plays with form? Post them in the comments below. I'll be sharing my favorites in this regular post. Currently, I'm working on submitting applications to graduate programs, so I'm considering writing a story through a personal statement or a gratuitously long and obsessively intrusive application...