On Absurdity and Character Journey in "Ugly Earthling"
By Kate Sheeran Swed
"Ugly Earthling" is my love letter to absurdity.
The process of writing short fiction is a joy. Shorts give me the opportunity to strut my weird, and to play with styles that would quickly become wearisome in the writing of a novel--or a reading of it, for that matter. I stand forever in awe of authors like Douglas Adams, whose long form works so effectively embrace absurdity in both style and content. It is not easy to pull off.
Still, the absurdity of "Ugly Earthling" posed a challenge when it came to crafting a satisfactory ending to the piece. As far out as it may be (rather literally, I suppose), my main character, Esmeralda, does have a goal in this story. It's reflected in the very first line. While there’s certainly room for character goals to shift and grow, I couldn’t very well have Esmeralda reacting to the events of the story by seeking out revenge, for example.
The prose style of a story like this might allow for a lot of weirdness, but that doesn't mean a character can randomly make decisions that run contrary to what they hope to achieve. Not unless they've got a convincing reason to do so. This story taught me quite a lot in the writing, quite a bit of which I managed through trial and error.
Squid chefs are one thing. Disappointing character journeys are quite another.
That's great. :) Thanks, Kate.