The goal of my project was to write short stories serving as psychological portraits of individuals coming of age, with a thematic focus on familial independence and socioeconomic mobility. Throughout this project, I gained insight on the drafting process and how to use such processes to produce psychologically rich characters. For each of the two stories produced, I wrote three separate drafts, each with a distinct title and focus.
The first story is titled: “Dad’s At Sunnyside.” This story is written with a close first person narration and follows the story of Wendy Carlile, a teenage girl, grappling with the ripple effects of her fathers addiction. I quickly realized in the first draft that it would be difficult to access emotional vulnerability within such a snarky, young narrator. Thus began the drafting process. For the next few drafts, Wendy spoke in letters to her father, her mother, her sister, and other figures in her life. From this, I was able to see the clearer story: one of not only familial trauma, but also deep care and a primitive need for nurturance.
The second story, titled: “Private-Lesson House,” took a different approach to the “coming of age” style narrative. Written with a close third person narration, this story follows the relationship of Magdalene, a seasoned world traveler and artist, and Alice, a young ballerina. Magdalene was born into wealth, which allowed her to pursue her artistic passions. Alice lives comfortably in an upper-middle class family who can afford local ballet lessons. Because this story switches perspectives each page, it becomes a vehicle to explore how economic mobility influences artistry. How much does one's upbringing matter when considering aesthetic choice? Where do those boundaries lie? Magdalene loves to speak on these questions, often trailing off into extended stories of her travels in luxurious villas, and garden escapades, and nautical adventures around the globe and…(etc, etc, etc). Alice keeps it short. She’s eleven, afterall! In the drafting process, these characters balanced each other's voices in length and depth of questioning.
Beyond the thematic elements I explored, this project allowed me to develop my own process as a writer. I came away understanding the psychological depth that can be achieved with uninterrupted time spent with a character. I began this project with the question: What does it mean to come of age? Through this project, I’ve refined this question: What can it mean to come of age? And more importantly: How can these stories be told?