A Process of Discovery: Exploring Narrative Structure and Tension in Two Short Stories by Alice Munro
Introduction: What lies at the center
For Alice Munro, writing is a process of discovery. She writes to find out “what the story is all about—not how it will work, but what it’s really about. This to me is the pleasure of writing,” she tells Eleanor Wachtel in an interview (1993: 108). As a reader, I find my pleasure in a Munro story is similar; I read to find out what lies at the heart of the story, happy to go along for the ride as Munro takes me there in her roundabout but unerring fashion.
Munro tells Tim Struthers, “Too much thinking about what I’m doing is altogether a waste of time. And not even a very great temptation, though I sit around, you’d maybe think I was thinking, but I’m just having kind of a big, gloomy, empty-minded period […] trying to get my story straight” (1983: 36). Madison Smartt Bell describes this type of intuitive writing process thus: “the writer discovers the form of the story in the process of writing it, just as the reader discovers the story’s form in the process of reading it. This sense of discovery has much to do with the pleasure of reading, and for the writer who can work in an analogous way, it can truly be an ecstatic pleasure” (2000: 26).
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