Finding stories in the strangest of places

Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, the inspiration for my short story collection.
Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, the inspiration for my short story collection.

NIGHTHAWKS IS THE TITLE of a short story I wrote some time ago after visiting the Chicago Art Institute where I had observed the painting of the same name by Edward Hopper. The four characters in that painting are as individual as ice cream and water.

Hopper contrasted the darkness of the outside with the brightness inside the restaurant. There is a mood emanating from the painting that touches the emotions. I began to wonder about the four individuals.

I “asked” them where they came from and why they were there. Where would they go when they left? My answers came through a woman not in the painting. I named her Theresa McCarthy. Her observations make up the bulk of the story. Through them, the reader comes to know the four characters.

Recently, it was proposed that I write a series of short stories using those characters bound by a common thread—the restaurant. The more I considered this route, the more intrigued I became. I began to read articles about writing short stories just to get the feel of what I needed to do.

In an article in the August issue of The Writer magazine, Grant Faulkner, executive director of 100 Word Story discusses writing short short stories. Much of what he says is applicable to writing well, no matter the length.

I like his statement about not telling the reader everything—“I trust in the spaces of a story, in what goes unsaid, to draw the readers in.” He then quotes Jayne Anne Phillips—“the last lines…should ‘create a silence, a white space in which the reader breathes. The story enters that breath and continues.’”

That’s what I hope to achieve.

Patricia La Vigne is the author of Wind-Free.

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