*This post contains spoilers. If you haven’t yet done so, read “Q&A” now.
This isn’t a new idea, but something I like doing to inspire creativity as a storyteller is to create a box for myself. By that I mean introducing restrictive elements to the storytelling process. For example, in Wounded Tongue, the protagonist Reyn is hearing impaired, which impacts how she communicates with everyone she comes in contact with. Here, in “Q&A” the restrictive element is the Q&A format, which I love. Unlike dramatic writing, there’s absolutely no stage direction in this story, and by removing narration of any kind, the words of the characters alone are in charge of narration. This, I feel, keeps everything present in a way that can’t be achieved by other forms.
“Q&A” is especially close to my heart exactly because of the use of dialogue. I loved movies as a kid. Loved them. So much that I wanted to be a screenwriter. I’d started college as a film and video production major, and switched to creative writing only because it seemed to be the best path for screenwriting (the film & video production major covered a wide spectrum of the film industry). To this day, I write screenplays, and find that in fiction dialogue is one of my favorite things to play around with. I love how quick it is. I love how even if you’re staring a blank piece of paper, just a few lines of dialogue can get you rolling along at a clip. I also love how you can start to really separate characters from one another through dialogue, be it through their diction, their cadence, or their brevity. Because of the restraints of the Q&A format, I spent a lot of time and energy making sure each character had their own voice; without doing so, I think the story would fail.
“Q&A” is also one of a few stories in Strays Like Us that strongly features a child’s innocence being corrupted in some way by their environment. We see it in “Julio: Conqueror of the Crowbar”. We see it in “Flask”, and in “Dear Holly, be Right”. Why was I drawn to this? I’m not sure. I think when I started writing these stories, I still had a lot of anger at what had been a very good upbringing, anger in the sense that I felt deeply misunderstood by people not in my generation. While I think generational disconnect is a pretty universal thing, I do believe my generation has had to face some unique circumstances. At the time of this writing I’m 29 years old, so by that I mean the recession, I mean technological advances, I mean the Internet, I mean social media. I remember being in high school and college and telling members of older generations that I wanted to be a writer, and their replies all essentially being, “So you want to write for the paper?” To which I would reply by telling them no, I want to write books. To which they would scoff, or roll their eyes, or straight up tell me that writing books was a hobby and not a career.
To be fair, I don’t think they were wrong for doing so. I did think they were wrong. But I don’t know. They had years of wisdom on me, and I was (and still am) a stubborn dreamer. The connection between personal experience and stories like “Q&A” isn’t a direct overlay. Things like that hardly ever are. How my frustration manifested into “Q&A” though has to do with Addison being taught a family lesson of sorts when she was a youngster, only to have that lesson be held against her later. More than that, as that lesson becomes a problem, irony lies in how each family member adopts the issue as their own — they care about getting Addison help, but they’re also extremely concerned with how Addison’s actions reflect upon them in the public eye.