We’re taking a look at the faculty of the UCR Low Residency MFA each day through February 1st, our upcoming application deadline, and today it’s fiction professor Stephen Graham Jones. Here, in an interview with Mourning Goats, Stephen talks a bit about his writing process:
One of my favorite quotes of yours is, “write yourself into a corner, and give it all away with each line,” would you mind going into more detail, or giving an example in your own writing?
Was just listening to the Farrelly Brothers installment of that screenwriter interview series The Dialogue, with Mike DeLuca — know it? Anyway, they say that too, or one of them does. Was so happy to hear somebody besides me preaching it. But, yeah, if you only write into places you know how to get out of, then you’re never going to have to push yourself. Example: Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, a kind of oddly compelling book. There’s this line about halfway through, something that ends a chapter like “And then the most surprising thing happened.” Or “unexpected,” something like that. Anyway, man, always do that to yourself, always kill the character you’re most attached to, always, if you’re Card, burn the Mother Tree, make us think the story’s over, that it can’t possibly go even one step farther. And then take it all the way around the town. What you’re doing is leading your reader into a truly imaginative space, one being created, guessed at, on the fly, one you discover together. It’s what real storytelling can be, when it’s honest, when it’s sincere.
And here’s a bit of Stephen’s actual writing…the short story “The Ones Who Got Away” from our friends at FiveChapters.