On February 12th, Chuck Palahniuk released a new short story exclusively through Amazon's Kindle Single program called 'Phoenix.' At the time of my writing this, 'Phoenix' is #1 across the board on Amazon's Kindle Single rank. The story is burning it up! (pun intended)
So earlier month, Chuck decided to start a series of essays explaining the construction and backstory of this short story. (You can read Essay 1 here, Essay 2 here and Essay 3 here.) And he decided to let a small number of fans submit questions to him. So without further ado, here is the second batch of Questions & Answers. And it goes without saying, but if you haven't yet read 'Phoenix,' there are spoilers below.
(Chuck's answers are italicizied within)
From Brian McHale:
Regarding the anecdotes, how do you remember them?
Do you use index cards like you mention in *Stranger Than Fiction*?
Is this room akin to the one used in the creation of the first Oxford
Brian, you send the strangest food pictures. The pineapple (?) still has me scratching my head. In regard to your question, here’s a great writing exercise. It’s something Tom Spanbauer used to assign his students on their first class session: Write the story of something you only half remember. Or barely remember. Start by recording the few details you can recall. Don’t focus on your feelings, just write down every physical aspect of the setting and what occurred. Doing this, Tom’s students are always amazed. Each might start with a couple sentences, but the longer they reflect the more those scant details evoke additional ones. This isn’t about inventing memories, the process actually demonstrates how memories cue deeper memories. It’s similar to song lyrics: If you can retrieve one line or phrase from your memory you can eventually recall most of the song.
With anecdotes, once I decide to quilt them into a story I’ll sit with scratch paper and do Tom’s exercise. The anecdote foremost in my mind will cue others, and I’ll make a list of them and decide which will work best as plot points.