Popular Theories of Writing
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Prairie Schooner 78.1 (2004) 92-93



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Popular Theories of Writing

A. B. Emrys


I. The Houseparty Mystery Theory of Writing

The last of the weekend guests have been picked up at the station and shown to their rooms. They are a fascinating group, and you can't wait to see what they will say and do, particularly while sitting down together for tea. But wait - one of them went hiking instead, two others demanded cocktails, and an entirely new person showed up! A host must cope. You pour tea, shake drinks, and observe the promising new dynamics. By dinner things are moving nicely towards the crisis scene to which your unsuspecting suspects will react. A scream rings out, and there's a general rush upstairs. You crowd into the bedroom with them and are horrified to find the wrong person has been killed. And wasn't that door supposed to be locked? We need a detective to sort this, you exclaim. But why is everyone staring at me?

Ii. The Vampire Interview Theory of Writing

Finally someone notices how pale you've become, how nocturnal, and wonders why. You always thought you'd write the great American novel but it turns out to be memoir. You fix the wedding guest/student teacher/house cleaner with your terrible, glittering I. Being listened to is a blood-letting, a relief far, far better than sex.

Iii. The Harry Potter (And Every Other Fantasy Novel) Theory of Writing

Doesn't matter how many times they lecture you, or hector, sneer, threaten, shame you. magic You have it. You know you do, even if you've forgotten, never let yourself realize. Even if you're pretending it's gone. magic They try to beat it out of you, starve it away, exorcise it. You hope somebody's coming, your real parents, your true guru, but finally it's you who leaves. magic You have the scantiest of directions and no map but dreams. You hardly believe [End Page 92] yourself, but your feet move. magic You're going to meet others like you Out There. You're going to meet the Masters, and if you weren't scared before, you will be now.

Iv. The Oregon Trail Theory of Writing

Daily life blows across you endlessly with no windbreaks. You struggle against its current towards any goal. Sometimes you don't even make a mile. Sometimes you're snowed in by the present, eat or be eaten. You keep going. You forget where sometimes, and other times you manage to forget how long it's been. You're always tempted to settle. Once in a while you pass a significant landmark. If you survive, you reach the promised land.

V. The Mardi Gras Theory of Writing

Party first, cher. Then you got the makings for gumbo. But starve a little meantime - adds the spice.



A. B. Emrys' work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Paragraph, and the Mississippi Review, and the anthologies How We Live Our Yoga (Beacon P) and Times of Sorrow, Times of Grace (Backwaters P).

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