Thievery: And the World Was Crowded With Things That Meant Love
On Thursdays, I invite my favourite writers to share the inspirations behind their stories. Here’s one from one of my all-time favourite short story writers, Amber Sparks.
‘And the World Was Crowded With Things That Meant Love’ was published in Matter.
Down the years they sent their strange missives. She sent maps made of clay, locks with no key, books with words cut out, fantastical animals and landscapes. He sent puzzle boxes, lacquered bangles engraved with kanji, bright yellow Dutch clogs. They sent maps of where they’d been and circled where they were going. And the world was crowded with things that meant love.
Sometimes I write a story purely as a challenge to myself, and this was definitely one of those stories. I had been thinking about love stories – what makes a love story a love story, how is it told, what elements are necessary or traditional – and I thought, could you write a love story about two people without those elements? For instance, it seems pretty basic that you need to have two people in a space together, generally going about the business of falling in love. So what if you take two people and separate them, make sure they never occupy the same space ever again, and then tell their love story?
That means, of course, that you have to figure out what replaces the usual elements. You can’t just have two people mooning about missing the other person – that’s a loss story, not a love story. You can’t just have the backstory of how they met or what happened to separate them – that’s a loss story, too. The real challenge to me was this: how do you tell an ongoing story of love without lovers together? I thought about but rejected or texts or email or messaging. That seemed too easy, and frankly, I’m not a big fan of the modern epistolary piece style, told through G Chat or whatever. Some people do it really well, but I decidedly do not.
Instead I decided to tell a real, developing love story—infatuation and fights and deep, growing love—using only symbols. Gifts sent back and forth around the world. I realized that in the real world, obviously, people would email, would text, would write letters, send pictures, would Skype and Facetime. And so the story took on an interesting, fable-like quality which was unintentional but which I really dug. And it was amazing how much depth, how much startling emotion you could get just from an object – just from a music box or a paper cut out – that you could tell a deeply affecting story (at least I hope so!) without any kind of display of emotion at all. To me, that was the fun of writing this story, and the surprise that the challenge ended up yielding.
Read ‘And the World Was Crowded With Things That Meant Love’ at Matter.