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Segue 9: Fall 2010  ||  Jeff Frawley

 

about the author

         

Jeff Frawley recently received an M.F.A. in fiction at New Mexico State University, where he now teaches writing. His fiction has appeared in Ellipsis and Timberline magazines. He was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Hungary, where he will research and work on a novel.

   
 

about the work

 

Like most of the stories I’ve written, this one blossomed from an image—a frog stuck, for some inexplicable reason, inside a common yet potentially dangerous kitchen appliance—rather than a situation or plot; and like most of my stories, this one was significantly reduced in size from one draft to the next, from forty pages down to ten. I often long to be the type of writer who possesses a full sense of story before sitting down to write, but I suppose I have, over time, learned to go with what works for me. The obvious question when considering the image that spawned this story was, So how did the frog get inside the blender? Over several drafts I found myself intrigued by and committed to the idea of two young brothers who collect reptiles and amphibians now jeopardizing the wellbeing of these exotic pets—an act of “playing God” some might say—in a bizarre behavior that is equal parts mourning, attempting to cope with death, and seeking irrational revenge against their father. Once this complex situation had sprung from that image the story began, as the cliché goes, to write itself.

Or, not exactly. Only a few drafts before this, “How the Natural World Holds Together,” while also having a different title, was over forty pages in length. The characters had names, the narrator access to characters’ thoughts and emotions. Much of my writing process, because so many of my early drafts are loose, unsightly behemoths, involves hacking out unnecessary, frivolous material. It is interesting to me that oftentimes this cut material contains most of a story’s narrative interiority, along with scenes meant to teach the reader (or, more likely, me the writer) the “point” of the story. Once I succumbed to this slash-and-burn revision with “How the Natural World…” I began to understand and embrace the removed, objective, unflinching narrative stance from which this story is told. This narrative stance, I now see, is not so dissimilar from someone staring, “Godlike,” through the glass walls of a terrarium upon some more unfortunate, suffering creature whose behaviors the person watching can attempt to rationalize yet can never truly understand. After many, many drafts I now realize this story is very much concerned with, given an event as tumultuous as death in the family, the irony inherent in “playing God”—that is, offering explanations, extending clemency, affording for suffering—when wisdom and omniscience are in fact very far away.

And this is in essence is my writing process: image spawns character situation, spawns story, spawns revision towards narrative stance, spawns preliminary understanding of theme and “aboutness,” spawns more revision. Lots of spawning. Like frogs in a blender.

   
 

 

 


   
   

 

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