Short Story Month, Day 11: Ben Loory
Initially, I wanted to share Ben's story "Death and the Lady," which is one of my favorite stories from his latest collection, Tales of Falling and Flying, but it turns out that it's one of the few pieces that hadn't been published before the book's release. As far as I can tell, there's no online version to link. Guess I'll have to settle for this other amazing story that he wrote.
I'd mentioned the other day that listening to Rob Roberge read "Working Backwards from the Worst Moment of My Life" was instrumental in my ability to read my work to an audience. Another writer I have to credit with that is Ben. I once complimented his ability to deliver consistently amazing readings, and he said that it probably stems from reading everything aloud as he writes. I'd never actually tried reading drafts aloud before—usually, I'd just imagine how they'd sound in my head—so when I tried following Ben's example, I found myself changing the way I wrote. As a flash writer and former journalist, I'm habitually concise, but after stumbling as I read aloud, I started adding words or changing word choices to accommodate the cadence of my speech. I think I've also started injecting more emotion so that I don't have to stand in front of a group of people and deliver a deadpan story. I write with more personality.
It's easy to learn about personality through Ben's work, too, because of his singular voice. There's a dark whimsy to his stories, which can make them feel like twisted fables, but the language can be so stark and straightforward that they become comical even when they're a bit terrifying. I can't think of another author who could make a squid say, "God, you're such an idiot" to another squid and make it feel purposeful and, you know, not stupid. This story exemplifies his expertise in being bizarre without ever feeling cartoonish; instead, it's sweet and innocent and full of longing, even when it's really frickin' hilarious. Most of his stories are. He's such an expert at writing endearingly weird short stories that if I decided to be lazy and fill the rest of this month's entries with things he's written, nobody would complain. Seriously. You might even thank me for it. I probably won't, though. I apologize in advance.