This is not a normal story. It labors against all the conventions of storytelling. There is no narrative arc, nor any memorable setting. The reader will discover no charming characters, no one with whom she will form any kind of emotional or sympathetic connection. In fact, this is a story without emotion. It is a story without exposition, without rising or falling action, and it is especially a story without a climax. There will be no climaxes in this story.
In this story, there is nary a trace of flowery language, although the reader may unearth words like "nary" that may jolt her out of the narrative dream, if there was a narrative dream to disrupt in the first place. Flowery language is meant to make a story aesthetically pleasing, but this story is not aesthetically pleasing. It is a real story. A true story. The truth is never aesthetically pleasing—like this story, the truth is ugly.
There will be plenty of clichés in this story. More clichés than you can shake a stick at. Clichés are more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Clichés are easy, and a reader who insists that clichés be earned should reconsider what a cliché is. Giving flowers is not cliché. A candlelit dinner for two followed by an intimate evening drinking Chardonnay in front of a tender fire is not cliché. A marriage proposition on one knee is not cliché. These actions are gestures of love and affection, even when those gestures are not recognized as such. And if the reader cannot appreciate gestures, then perhaps no gestures should have been offered.
This story needs no reader, because this story is meant to be shouted between rooms or through a closed door. A reader might mistake the author's refusal to deal with characters to reflect an absence of real people in the author's life. The author does not miss the company of any person in particular. The lack of characters denotes nothing more than the author's preference to avoid dealing with characters for the time being. Readers tend to fall in love with the wrong characters—characters like Charles, an investment consultant with a six-figure income, a brand new Lexus with satellite radio, and a small two-story house in an affluent neighborhood. Erroneously, a reader might find a character like Charles, who dances salsa and plays classical guitar, more romantic and exciting than someone who spends his time writing stories. She might think that, the night Charles seduced her, I fell asleep next to a cold hearth with an empty wine bottle and an uneaten meal. But Charles is not a character. This story is not about characters—there are no characters.
This is the end of the story. There is no story beyond this point. When the story ends, the author can move on to a new story for a new reader. This story ended three sentences ago, and the author desperately wants to be done with it. There was no love in this story. It was not a story about love or lost love, or even a story about love that should have been. There was no goddamn love. This story was a dry bouquet of words offered to no reader in particular.
About the author:
W. Todd Kaneko lives and writes in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he teaches writing at Grand Valley State University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University, and was a Peter Taylor Fellow in Fiction at the 2007 Kenyon Review Writers Workshop. His work has recently appeared, or is forthcoming, in Fugue, Passages North, and Roanoke Review, as well as in the book Writers Gym.
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