Sometimes we want to dance, even those of us who say we don’t like to. Colin Winnette’s narrator meditates upon this desire, but only for a moment. The narrator exists in fragments, and the part of him that wanted to dance, named “An Evasive Aspect of My Personality,” is denied the pleasure of turning and moving to music, denied this approximate transcendence. In certain moments, different aspects of the narrator take precedence. We are a sum of our parts, but it doesn’t mean the parts have to work together.
Personalities are shaped in fiction by the discourse. We say, “This narrator is unreliable.” “This narrator is sympathetic.” “This narrator shows what it’s like to live in a war torn country and how to go beyond nationalism.” However, even these moves are not transparent inside of fiction. Characters are led by their authors to decisions that lead us to judge them. Dialogue helps characters reveal themselves to us, we get exposition, or free indirect discourse moves a reader along inside a character’s head, trailing his or her thoughts.
Free indirect discourse is a fairly transparent mode of writing. We seamlessly enter from the third person into people’s minds. Here, though, Winnette’s first-person narrator says, “I met My Father’s Approval fifteen minutes before the plane took off… He must have pushed me out of the plane because I didn’t jump,” (69). Action and dialogue, rather than introspection, lead a reader to get to know the character. What is real is doubled—are we to believe that Winnette’s narrator jumped from an airplane? Sure. Are we to believe that he did it with another character named My Father’s Approval? Probably not. But we can see the meeting point between them, how the experiences are connected within the narrator while the motivations behind them remain fractured.
Another part of “Myself” in Winnette’s piece is “That I Got Published One Time.” He’s a boisterous fellow, always yelling at people on the bus or picking his nose or cursing. Still, the narrator says, “Without him, I’d have no idea where I ever was,” (68). The narrator cannot deny this complex existence. With multiple aspects of himself interplaying, the narrator becomes full, even in this false way.
Fiction like Winnette’s does its best to be honest about its lies. Readers are aware of the limitations of the constructed character. The world Winnette produces makes us think about the small battles that normally go unseen inside of us. Dancing vs. standing in the corner. The music that surrounds us and pushes us in many directions at once.
Some nights I feel more connected. I am aware that there are thousands of us, more, staring at blank pages, hitting keys on laptop keyboards, making words come out, giving characters their first words, steps. We are writers writing. In a way, we are the characters. Each of us pulled in uncountable directions. We try and decide what is worth writing about or what writing is capable of. We search for truth either in something simple and personal or something greater, more universal. The screen glows with pleasure. Each pixel awaits our arrival.
Sam Price lives in Philadelphia, PA.