writing, Writing and Editing

Collage Storytelling

As those of you who have been paying attention lately know, the 20th South Coast Writers Conference is coming up in February. Yes, I’ve registered. And yes, I’m a bit excited about it. This year, in particular, features some of the most interesting workshops offered lately.

Maybe it’s because most of the workshops are more directly related to writing fiction than usual. Whatever.

One of the workshops I’m most looking forward to is called “The Ol’Collage Try,” taught by Elena Passarello. Here is the official workshop description from the conference guide:

A lyric essay uses vivid images and quick cuts to tell stories in artfully arranged fragments, rather than in one specific narrative line. Inspired by visual art and film, collage storytelling is a lynch pin form of the sub-genre known as “lyric essay,” and it serves as an inspiring way to supercharge your writing.

Collage storytelling is something I’ve been interested for many years, but haven’t had the work I needed to pursue it. The idea I’ve been toying with, hadn’t had a name before now; collage storytelling works quite well. I first began to think about it after a phase of studying art history. In particular, the school of painting called “Pointilism” caught my imagination.

“Pointilism” is a school of visual art that teaches that portraits can be rendered, not with the usual brushstroke rendering of lines and areas to depict shapes, colors, and difference in light. The Pointilists said the same effect could be achieved using an arrangement of small dots. The theory states that the human mind, viewing the arrangement of dots, would automatically find the pattern and fill in the missing details.

And it works. At least it works in the visual arts.

How would it work in writing? Well, that’s why I’m going to take the workshop. To find out. In theory though, it would involve creating a series of seemingly unrelated scenes, but with an underlying connection. It would be up to the reader to provide that connection.

At best, it would be tricky because it will depend on the reader doing more work than he or she is used to doing. How many readers have you talked to who don’t read (because they can’t follow) nonlinear narratives? What are the odds they would be willing to figure out a collage-style narrative?

However, there are three reasons I believe we write. Self-expression, to entertain the reader, and to advance the art form. Writing a work of collage storytelling would definitely fall under the “advancing the art form” heading. When I write my first collage story, it will be with the full knowledge that 90% of the readers will not like it. But the 10% who are fans of “literary” fiction will. It is to that group of readers I will submit my collage fiction.

When I get it written. I’m hoping the writing workshop will help with that.

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