My teacher liked the beginning, “All the different Kareems are here.” and suggested I use it as the title instead of “In Absentia.” She suggested useful line-edits that also helped. For the ending, she thought that I should include another line about the autographed baseball that was present throughout the story.
By the time I started this workshop, I was writing about three hours a day, sometimes more. I’d been revising my short stories but I was still having trouble seeing what I needed to do to complete them. The workshop on my “white shit” story was very helpful. The main character’s name in the story is Kareem. When he was observing himself at different ages, I had trouble naming the different characters. The discussion was primarily about how I named his different selves. A student, someone from my literature class, suggested that I try first person. When my twenty-one year-old Kareem was speaking, he would be the “I” and take one Kareem out of the mix.
During my next set of revisions of the story, I also took out the age tags for the other Kareems, putting the descriptions of them into the older Kareem’s narrative. These revisions made a big difference in the story and the narrative flowed more smoothly after I’d removed some of the roadblocks.
Several students didn’t like that I had used the term “white shit.” I don’t think that anyone understood the little joke that I used the term instead of having a double skip, that extra white line of space, between the scenes. When I told one of my new friends from class what it represented, he laughed and said it was a good idea. I did revise the intro where the “white shit” was first introduced, boiling it down and I eliminated the “shit” in some other places.
I’ve called sentence-level training micro-literary techniques, implying that there are other levels. During my workshop, I had this kind of epiphany about how I hadn’t been doing all of the writing and had started thinking of about my writing process again. For my short stories, I was looking at my sentence structure as I wrote and included three motifs for a more rounded structure like I’d seen in Wolff’s stories. But I still wasn’t making everything in the stories connect as they should.
The stories were incomplete and I wasn’t working on them long enough. Some of the motifs weren’t the best that I could be using for the theme of the story, especially when I found that the theme changed as I developed the story. My similes and metaphors weren’t always lined up with the themes either. And why I had used certain points-of-view when I did? Experimenting with different techniques was not enough; I needed to find the right technique for the story. My tone was usually appropriate unless I hadn’t chosen the right point-of-view. Sometimes, the overall effect of my stories was not what I’d intended. I had a lot more to learn.