“Redneck Daiquiri” (Fiction) by Christopher Williams
Forum: In general, what comes first in your writing process, character or plot?
Williams: Always character. People, and the relationships between them are what make stories. I’ve tried writing more plot driven pieces in the past, but have always found that without the catalyst of a compelling protagonist the whole endeavor dies from lack of oxygen. Also, if I don’t have clear characters in mind from the beginning, I tend to default to “characters” who have way too much in common with myself. This is a recipe for disaster, as I am in no way interesting enough for the written page.
In this story, which character do you relate to most?
Probably Len. He seems like a person who accepts things as they are, which is something I strive for. Plus, he lives in a trailer with an astroturf lawn near Joshua Tree. Who wouldn’t want that life?
Are there authors you look up to, or whose writing motivates you?
I look up to Alejandro Zambra and Tom Drury a lot. Their writing is always tapped into the sublime. It tends to have a bit of melancholy to it, and definitely showcases their idiosyncratic senses of humor. They do this with simple language, well defined characters, and subtle plot elements. They don’t necessarily motivate me to write, however, as their stuff is so far and beyond anything I could ever produce that often it makes me want to give up writing altogether. I get a lot more motivation to write from other forms of art, music and movies especially.
How do you deal with writer’s block, and what’s your advice to other writers?
If I get stuck on a story I just put it aside, sometimes for years. This story, for example, was born out of an attempt to revive a story that I started five years ago and have never been able to finish. Every time I try to work on it I either get stuck and give up again or end up going in a whole new direction and creating a completely different story. So I guess my advice would be to figure out some way to make your writer’s block fit into your writing process.
Are you working on any projects now?
I’m always working on a short story. Even if it’s a piece that I’m fairly sure is going nowhere, I’ll keep plugging away until I’m happy enough with it or there’s no denying it sucks. By that time I’ll usually have another idea that I want to pursue. The routine of writing, revising, and editing keeps my head in a good place. Writing is a habit, like any other, and the more you sit down and do it, the more ingrained it becomes in your life. And the more ingrained it becomes, the more fruit it bears.