Ephemera in Fiction

Writing is funny. Okay, maybe not funny ha-ha, but the process can be amusing. Mostly, because it’s unpredictable.

I’ll give you an example. If I’m not working on a long project, I’ll sit down to write and have nothing in mind. Then all of a sudden, a few words or phrases come out. Soon, a whole story blossoms around them until I’ve got a complete narrative. Ideally, this is how it works.

It always starts with the few words or phrases or an image. But sometimes, I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean, like I’m trying to decipher the real meaning of a cryptic phrase, which is ridiculous because I came up with the phrase in the first place!

But fiction for me, especially short stories are filled with ephemera, little scraps and bits and pieces that are disposable and meaningless on their own. Maybe they just go into my idea file and sit there for ages. But they sometimes come crawling out of the ether and demand to be made into something indisposable. Even more than that, they demand to be irreplaceable.

More than anything, I want to honor that ephemera, those bits, those useless pieces. They came from somewhere in the back of my mind and I have to work hard to ensure my forebrain serves them justice. I don’t always succeed, but writing every day is my way of worshipping at the feet of the ephemera so it will always be there, a pool of scraps of paper that say things like “plastic burning in the desert” and “cats with cowlicks” and “You are less made up and more like memory.”

I sit down at the computer and bury my hands deep in the discarded, hoping to save just one fragment.

5 thoughts on “Ephemera in Fiction

  1. What a great way to describe the process: “they sometimes come crawling out of the ether and demand to be made into something indisposable” — and those are often what make the best stories.

    • Thank you, Milo! I know the process sounds sort of esoteric, but in reality it’s just our brains being awesome. We may not know how they’re being awesome, but I think you wind up with a great story if you figure out what you’re trying to tell yourself. If that makes any sense. 🙂

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