The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Monday, August 25, 2008

Progress of a story: The curiosity stage

By Tamara Lee

On Saturday, I made my annual trek to the PNE, an urban fair held the last two weeks of the summer. Over the years, I’ve honed my reasons for going to a few musts: observe spectacle; eat badly; pet animals. With such broad categories to work with, I’m never disappointed by the experience.

Simply walking through the gates addresses the first category: Spectacle. There are characters worth writing about at every turn, like the 70-year-old lady sporting a black wig set too far forward on her head, screeching out her enthusiasm at a handbag demonstration; or, the hefty, short-tempered families of 6, dressed in spandex and nylon leisurewear, lugging strollers and handfuls of food and stuffed animals.

Satisfying the eating priority is straightforward, too: Jimmy’s Lunch Fish & Chips or a Kiwanis burger and fries; mini-donuts or whale’s tales: once-a-year decisions I always look forward to following up on.

But it’s the animals every year that leave me feeling like a 7-year-old urban child.

2008 was the year of the horse, with a Clydesdale foal definitively winning my heart. At one month old, this ‘baby’ was as tall as I am (which actually isn’t very tall by human standards). He came up to me standing outside the corral, and parked himself while I scratched behind his ears, stroked his neck and forehead—upsetting a number of real 7-year-olds with his complete disinterest in them—and pretty much guaranteeing the 7-year-old in me to be alive and well with child-like awe. The mare—all 2500 pounds of her—concerned enough by our behavior, ambled over to nuzzle her foal away. But even that didn’t deter us.

Many years ago, I wrote a story using an equine metaphor and I’ve only recently begun to understand its core meaning. The epiphany’s been on my mind lately, and thus, so have horses.

This morning, as I performed several hours’ worth of research on horse history, revisiting some stuff I learned as a 10-year-old at horse-camp, but with no real purpose other than a curiosity hangover, it occurred to me that a writer’s research is not unlike that foal’s: the almost unwavering fascination that may or may not lead to anything in particular.

I’ve no idea if this marks the beginning of some project, but something seems to be whirring around up there. This is my favorite part of writing, scratching the itches, stretching the neck towards this-and-that.

Over the next little while, as the story tumbles and splats onto the page, I hope to offer some observations en route to the final piece. Of course, the story may stall completely, in which case this will be a very short series. Time, research, and sustaining curiosity will determine this story’s fate.


Blogger Anne C. said...

Wishing you luck as your idea develops!

Tue Aug 26, 06:42:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I love that you ate badly! It reminds me of the circuses and fairs that wheeled into town when I was a kid with their cotton candy and peanuts. Or going down to the Jersey shore and getting big, fat, salty french fries along the boardwalk and salt water taffy. So much more fun than the study of nutrition labels I'm into these days.

The little horse is a cutie. Hope he provides just the right literary inspiration.

Tue Aug 26, 04:21:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Thanks, gals. Thanks for the well-wishes! It's kind of interesting, paying attention to one's process.

Tue Aug 26, 04:33:00 pm GMT-4  

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