Research Notes · 12/11/2015

Valletta78

Our Research Notes series invites authors to describe their process for a recent book, with “research” defined as broadly as they like. This week, Erin Fitzgerald writes about Valletta78 from Outpost19.

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Five Tips for Being Someone Different on the Internet

  1. Identify people who secretly feel they are underappreciated. This is nearly everyone, so it won’t take long at all. Online forums and support groups are good places to look — the collective guard is up way too much at dating sites. Keep in mind that Someone Different’s problems don’t have to match the usual topic of discussion. Sometimes variety actually makes the whole thing more convincing.
  2. Don’t waste time. Tell her she’s hilarious, caring, and extremely wise. Tell him that he arrived in your life at just the right moment, and you thank God every day for that. Watch who makes excuses and logs off, and who stays. If they know each other, keep them as separate as possible. Go off on your own with who stays — find opportunities for private jokes and more customized flatteries.
  3. This isn’t the 1990s anymore, so don’t be sloppy. It’s insulting to you, and to the people who are at least pretending to believe you’re Someone Different. Get a burner phone and use a UPS Store address. Get photos that can’t be found on Google Images — go to the mall, take them from a distance. When you’re one person AND a sibling/parent/significant other, try to change up how you say things. Not too much, though — trying too hard is also sloppy.
  4. Decide in advance what you’re going to do if you get caught, and at what level of critical mass. If someone figures out your home address is a UPS Store, do you want to tell them you’re being stalked and never give out your home address? Or do you just want to hit the eject button and start over? It’s your comfort level that’s important, not theirs.
  5. At the beginning of the novel Dune, a young man is tested by a old woman. She uses a deadly needle and a box of pain for the test, and she doesn’t tell him what she is really looking for. Near the end of the novel, all intents revealed, the young man says to the old woman: “Try looking into that place where you dare not look! You’ll find me there, staring out at you!” But you, Someone Different? Never try looking into that place where you dare not look. There’s nothing there, and no one.

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Three Tips for Writing about Being Someone Different on the Internet

  1. Over a period of several months, read a lot of fiction in which truly terrible things happen to people.
  2. Read an interview with Alissa Nutting in which she talked about writing Tampa. Read the part where she says that during the editing process if she could turn a page without cringing, she knew it had to be fixed. Realize that this is also a writing challenge. Think about what genuinely makes you cringe the most.
  3. Write a novella. When it’s finished, look for the interview again to see if you remember it right. You won’t be able to find it.

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Erin Fitzgerald is the author of “This Morning Will Be Different,“ which appeared in Shut Up/Look Pretty (Tiny Hardcore Press, 2012). Her work has also been published in Hobart, The Rumpus, Salt Hill, PANK, and several anthologies. She lives in western Connecticut, and online at erinfitzgerald.net.