Friday, June 7, 2013

Alex M. Pruteanu's Guerilla Writing Tactics

In the fifth in a series of posts on 2013 short story collections entered for The Story Prize, Alex M. Pruteanu, author of Gears (Independent Talent Group), shares his approach to organizing a collection and his flexible approach to writing.

How often does an idea for a story occur to you, and what triggers those ideas?
I am nearly finished writing a novel at this point, so all of my ideas and any new writing are focused on this particular book, but when I don’t have a behemoth of a project like a novel hoisted onto my shoulders, I tend to daydream of new ideas for short stories quite often. Most of my fiction is inspired by what happens (or doesn’t) in real life. Out of the mundane, the slowly eviscerating grind that is life, are born interesting stories about brave or not so brave people, of seemingly quiet or anonymous people with quiet, anonymous lives. The tricky part of generating ideas is culling down the list to something that has weight, import, humanity, and a certain level of profundity…and also: Does it make for a worthy story to be told? “Worthiness” is that intangible factor that good writers seem to have a nose for. Knowing what to write (not just how to write it) is immensely important to the sensibilities of a writer.

If you've ever written a story based on something another person told you would make a good story, what were the circumstances?
Either I was being held hostage at the time and made to write that story, or someone had maliciously slipped an evil “mickey” into my otherwise perfect martini, thus obfuscating what little I still have left of my mind. I have often found that what other people suggest to me as being “good stories to write about” are not. At the risk of sounding selfish, I find most people’s ideas of stories for me to explore in fiction to be quite bland, boring, and devoid of the humor they think or claim exists. That being said, perhaps I ought to reconsider the company that I keep, for surely it has to be my own doing.

What's your approach to organizing a collection?
I think organizing a collection in a logical manner is extremely important for the reader. If the reader gives his/her trust to the writer of a collection, then the reader is owed a logical trip or adventure. I paid a lot of attention to flow and subject matter and even voice/tone when it came to organizing my own collection. It actually didn’t take me too long to find (what I think is) the perfect order to Gears, but I physically laid out a hard copy of each story onto the surface area of my small house (1,400 sq. ft.) and flipped and switched and re-arranged each piece as if it were a giant playing card being moved in a game.

What's the worst idea for a story you've ever had?
Any idea that aimed to emulate something Ernest Hemingway had written…or in his style, was frankly a disaster. What people don’t seem to understand is how difficult it is to write “simply” like he did. And so, throughout the years, I’ve learned to just let Hemingway live inside of me, and see what happens when I put down my own words, for I truly believe that any artist who makes an impression on another artist, becomes part of an inner fabric or a brotherhood/sisterhood, and in some way or another, an influence is born, assimilated, and hopefully carried on, further developed or evolved.

Where do you do most of your work?
I love this question so much. I write in a style I call “guerilla writing.” They are irregular sessions of writing bursts strung together around the obstacles of a regular, daily life: a day job, family responsibilities, etc. I write on anything and everything (computer, laptop, pen and paper, the “cloud,” and even iPhone from time to time), and I do most of my work wherever it lends itself to be done. I’ve written in quiet environments, at a desk by a window, in public restrooms, on my own couch, and less often at coffee shops. The idea of having a “studio” sounds attractive, but it’s not practical for my lifestyle. I don’t have a set schedule for writing, nor do I have a designated place. “Guerilla writing.” By any means (and with every means) necessary.