How Does It Feel Different to Develop a Voice For a Story Versus a Novel?
Patricia Engel on The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan
On today’s episode of The Literary Life, special guest interviewer Dwyer Murphy is joined by Patricia Engel to discuss her latest story collection, The Faraway World, out now from Avid Reader Press.
From the episode:
Patricia Engel: It’s hard to say what comes first, the voice or, you know, the character’s interiority. Maybe they both come from different directions close to the same time. In the case of the story, which has a very specific voice, right? I was really thinking about the character in her life, and her life is very much a product of her relationships. The close proximity to her father, this boyfriend who is the center of her universe, and the voice really started coming from there. You know, it’s really a female experience. But in relation to men a lot of the time and the voice is something that you play with continuously and thinking about, well, what are the metaphors somebody like her would reach for? There wouldn’t be the ones maybe you or I would reach for, right? To describe something like falling in love, and that’s where the fun of writing fiction is, because you get to inhabit other lives, other other identities and just play. And a lot of voice really is just that. It’s just coming down to, you know, make believe and playing on the page.
Dwyer Murphy: Does it feel different than when you are committing to a voice for a novel? Because when it’s a novel, the voice has to do a lot. You know, it needs to be capable of so much. And with a story, maybe you can preserve a little bit more of that sense of play.
Patricia Engel Yeah, I think ideally you put the same burdens on both, right? I love to read and I try to write stories that feel like tiny novels or, you know, that the weight of a novel in miniature. But I think we place the same responsibilities on voice, whether it’s a short or long form. Certainly when you’re writing long form, you know, it’s hard to sustain. You know, it’s a different process, it’s a different architecture that you’re working with. But I think that it needs to carry the same weight and even be distributed similarly. This is a short story.
Patricia Engel is the author of Infinite Country, a New York Times bestseller and Reese’s Book Club selection; The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia’s national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories appear in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Born to Colombian parents, and herself a dual citizen, Patricia is an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Miami.