We recently published M.J. Iuppa’s stunning micro, “White Noise.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I love how you take a small moment like this and make it into something so large — the reader feels a whole history in 100 words here! When you write a piece like this, do you imagine an entire backstory for the character too? Or is what’s on the page all you know about them?
In “White Noise” the character’s internal conflict (life vs death) is revealed in the stasis of winter. All those layered sound and touch images build in a forward motion towards a bubble of change that may or may not come. However, it’s the character’s heart— her will to hear her own heartbeat in the darkness of winter that makes the white noise a comfort rather than its maddening buzz. Not always, but often, I write fiction from my own life experience. I live on a postage stamp farm, in a farmhouse built in 1860’s. I have been undergoing health challenges since 2018. There is isolation in cancer, which has been compounded by Covid-19. How to handle the isolation is where my fictional character instructs me, imagining her future in the story’s present.
2) The imagery is so powerful here; I love how you make us feel the cold that the narrator feels. Is this kind of cold an experience you’re familiar with yourself?
Describing the cold as an extended metaphor for illness and isolation comes to me organically. I have lived in Western New York, where we’re sandwiched between the weather of two Great Lakes (Ontario and Erie); so, cold and snow are elements that I know inside and out. Consequently, I began with the sound of the furnace (e.g., heart of house) kicking on, in hopes of driving out the cold in the farmhouse. The metaphor is extended through participles (verbs in motion): kicking, making, raising, thinking, shushing. I do like the way that shushing of snow circles back to the furnace kicking on.
Typically (not always, but mostly) first lines and last lines of stories have what I call a bracelet effect; that is to say that the first line launches the story, and like dominoes all the middle lines fall naturally into place; and then, the last line reaches back to the start, making its connection in the story’s revelation. Consequently, the imagery used in the extended metaphor gains power as the story unfolds. The challenge is to make readers feel, know the experience, too.