Kathy fish, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 16 Prompt: Meander

In her excellent craft book, Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative, Jane Alison says:

“If a narrative naturally wants to flow toward its end but doesn’t want to get there yet—the pleasure’s in the journey—it might hold back by strewing conflicts, boulders, along the way, as an adventure story might. But it might be bored by classic conflict, so instead lingers by flowing along an extravagant arabesque of detours: this is what meandering narratives do. A meander begins at one point and moves toward a final one, but with digressive loops. Italo Calvino says that “digression is a strategy for putting off the ending, a multiplying of time within the work, a perpetual evasion or flight. Flight from what? From death of course.”

Read “Friday Night” by Gwen E. Kirby, published in Wigleaf. This narrative is all over the place, yet focused like a laser at the same time. Take note of the breathless structure. It’s actually one looping sentence, spilling over with emotion, yet banal in its attention to, well, that pizza. It’s funny, angry, sad, desperate, tender, real. And it’s a wonderful example of the power of meandering.

So you guessed it. Your prompt for today is to write a story that meanders in this way, keeping the central conflict on low hum the whole time. Write a first person POV breathless paragraph or sentence like this Gwen Kirby did here OR do your own thing, but don’t write in a straight line. Take detours.

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