Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hope and Despair

So all this election talk with connotations of hope, change and progress has left me feeling ... well ... hopeful.

There was a great line from Obama's acceptance speech that I jotted down:
Our stories are singular but our destinies are shared.
And I thought, now wouldn't that just make the coolest epigraph on a collection of connected short stories?

But then I got thinking about it, more so, about the kind of stories I write, and I do not write hopeful stories.

The reason I do it is fairly obvious: I'm young and in order to appear like "part of the club" I feel that I have to take on serious subject matter. And serious means a lack of hope. It means cancer and marriages breaking up, it means running away and denial, it means a lack of money and a shady past, date rape and drug use, and who gets used by whom, right?

Wow. Incredibly depressing. No wonder so few people read literary fiction if this is what we think we need to do to write it.

I'm not sure if I even know where to start on writing a "hopeful" short story, or at least one that manages to be hopeful and yet not cheesy. There has to be some sort of line that can be walked between hope and despair in literary fiction, some sort of notion that out of the ashes of one rises the other, but it's a tough line to walk when you want to be both serious and happy, but not corny.

I have a feeling that if I brought in a "hopeful" story to my current workshop I would get reamed. And if I can't even write one hopeful short story, how on earth do I expect a collection to make use of that epigraph?

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