Friday, September 27, 2013

Writing with a constraint: Mich's Summer Mystery

I spend the Summer working on the Mich's Summer Mystery. The solution to the mystery is that the letter A has been missing and the main character finally finds in it a book liberating my writing. This type of story is called a lipogram, it's not something new or something I created but it has been used by others before.

Why did I chose to write this story without the letter A?

When I was about 14 years old, my French teacher introduced a book called "La disparition" by Georges Perec. The entire novel is a mystery written in lipogram where the letter E has disappeared. I thought it was a brilliant idea and I really wanted to try to write something like that but I never thought I could. It is really hard to come up with twists and turns to make up for the lack of one single letter. At that time it was way beyond my writings abilities but then of course, somehow, I grew up and my skills grew and my confidence grew as well. 
I decided to give it a try. I decided for the letter A because well E had been done already and A is a really extensively used letter as well. I mean I was writing in Mich's point of view in the first person and I couldn't use anything like "I am", "I was" or even "There was". Something was missing and I couldn't even have other people ask her "What" it was. So this is the reason why A disappeared because I was sure it was something that people would notice. But they actually didn't.

What writing with a constraint did to my writing?

Well I have to say the first few posts were hell. I didn't have anything else than the idea that it needed to be a mystery and that I couldn't use any A. I had no plot, no characters and no location for it. I was on my own without As. The first thing that came to my mind was to get the main character to look for the As everywhere. I also decided to make the place a little foggy so everything around became Weird, not Strange, not Bizarre, just Weird. Then I needed to have her wake up, breathing, eating, walking and going to the bathroom without As. It was hell.
And then suddenly it seemed that my mind accustomed itself to it. When I opened the story the words would just flow out without A as if it was something absolutely normal. It surprised myself so much that I had to double check by underlining every A in the post. But the story was still without As. 
I think it helped me lot to get new vocabulary, especially different verbs, it helped me think the world differently as well, as every character and place needed to adapt to the new alphabet. It was a really enriching exercise. Maybe I'll do it again, who knows?

For the record, this post has 510 words and 165 As.

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