One of my favorite quotes was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.” It is from The Crack-Up, which also includes a section called “Turkey Remains and How to Inter Them with Numerous Scarce Recipes” containing absurd, seasonally-appropriate recipe suggestions such as a Turkey Cocktail: “To one large turkey add one gallon of vermouth and a demijohn of angostura bitters. Shake.” (That has nothing to do with why I like the quote. I just wanted to share that bit of trivia since it is almost Thanksgiving.)
“Draw your chair up close to the edge of the precipice and I’ll tell you a story.”
I like this quote because it encapsulates a lot of what I believe about good writing. A well-written story should make you feel like you are on the edge of a precipice. It should give you a little vertigo but still make you want to lean over farther for a better look. A good story should feel a bit dangerous. This is true of horror stories, adventure stories, mystery stories, love stories, and particularly true stories. You should feel like you could fall.
I don’t know if I’ve written many stories that do those things. It is certainly my goal, particularly when I’m writing fiction like The October Diary or something for Fiction Friday. It is my goal for my plays when I am writing plays. Most of my non-fiction blog posts probably don’t reach precipice levels, but perhaps they can feel like being on the top of a hillock or at least like you are standing on a particularly bumpy part of the carpet?
Here is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s recipe for Turkey Mousse: “Seed a large prone turkey, being careful to remove the bones, flesh, fins, gravy, etc. Blow up with a bicycle pump. Mount in becoming style and hang in the front hall.”
I fear that some of my stories more resemble that recipe than the precipice imagery. That’s okay. Not every story reaches the precipice. Certainly not every F. Scott Fitzgerald story did. But if you promise to keep drawing up your chair I promise to keep trying to take you to the edge.
This post was written as part of ChicagoNow Blogapalooz-Hour when ChicagoNow bloggers are given a topic and challenged to publish a post one hour later. Tonight’s topic was “Share your favorite quote (or quotes) — from a philosopher, author, comedian, politician, friend, family member, movie, whoever — and write in detail about why it resonates and has meaning for you.” Read the other posts here.
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