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Tell Me a Fractal

Spaces that stories can inhabit

This craft essay and book review was featured at medium.com in May of 2019. In it I conjecture what it might be like to fashion a novel as a fractal. The novel I was thinking of writing was a sequel to my 2018 thriller Turkey Shoot that would feature its female protagonist. With that in mind I began writing Her Own Devices the following month, completing the first draft a year later. It turned out not to be another thriller, as I’d expected, but a crime story. Is it a fractal? Not in any formal sense, but it does feature certain repeating elements. I’m currently fractalizing its fourth revision.

See the original story here (counts as one of three free articles non-subscribers to Medium may view each month).

“What I hope this book now will leave behind: the idea that new patterns like spirals or explosions or vortex streets might open our eyes to other natural shapes underlying our stories, might let us step away from the arc sometimes, slip under or through that powerful wave, glorious as it can be. I hope that other patterns might help us imagine new ways to make our narratives vital and true, keep making our novels novel.”

Jane Alison, Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative, Catapult, 2018, pages 248-9.

Think of a snowflake forming around a molecule of water clinging to a tiny particle of something, how it blossoms and diverges as other molecules join in, seeking their hexagonal destiny, becoming a perfect thing of beauty. Then think of it melting, its sharp edges blurring, its interstices blotting out until it plops to earth. That’s a story, right there, in full surround. Matter, space and time at play.

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