It often takes me a long time to find the link between the cryptic image or title and characters who are grounded in the mundane world. For example, the title story of Enchantment began when I had an image of a woman on her porch getting a UPS delivery of an enchanted man. She’d ordered him from an online site and he came with instructions to mist him twice a day. I started the story many times and couldn’t figure out how to move it forward. But when her sullen teen-aged
kids appeared, I realized the heart of the story was about the woman hiding the enchanted man from her family. And the title The Loneliness of the Midwestern Vampire appeared with such urgency that I knew I had to write the story. All I knew about this vampire was that he lived in the Midwest and that the first
sentence was Tonight he will fly for human blood. The title and the sentence felt static for a long time until a judge in the small Midwestern town began bother the vampire about getting citizenship. Then it became clear that the vampire had to bend to life in the heartlands.
Not all of my stories are triggered by surreal images. I’m fascinated by people, relationships and obsessions. Enchantment has a story about a woman who visits an old boyfriend, a cat that acts as a comforter, and two people who think they are soul mates. It also has two semi-autobiographical novellas with roots in my own life. These stories were hard to write because I had to invent and surprise myself to discover a universal element. After I finished, I felt as if I’d dived into a shipwreck and come up having lived a slightly different life.
Whether I write about what’s apparently “real,” or something more surrealistic, I have to feel captivated and enchanted myself or I don’t feel motivated to write the story. As a kid I had a viewer that held discs so you could look inside and see three-dimensional scenes. I remember looking at Little Red Riding Hood, poised
in the dark forest with her basket. I could feel the quiet of the woods and she seemed real, alive in another realm. I wanted to find a way to reach her. So when I talk about feeling enchanted, I’m talking about a feeling that started when I was very young. Although I’m told that my stories have a wicked wit and a sense of irony, I’m not able to write them unless I sense a return to this sense of magic and awe.
Thaisa Frank is the author of Sleeping in Velvet, A Brief History of Camouflage and Heidegger's Glasses. She is also the co-author of Finding Your Writer's Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction. Frank is the recipient of PEN awards. She has published critical essays on writing and art and also writes poetry.
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