Writer's Commentary: Shuffle

On Post: Shuffle

Date: January 1, 2014

Find it here

What initially clicked with me was the refrain—which I reappropriate a bit of in the final lines of this piece—and so that is where my creative process started, the idea of staying with the one(s) who defined/have defined your life.

In the song, of course, it seems to be talking about love, most likely romantic love, but doing a straightforward take on that did not interest me in the moment. So, what if, then, our protagonist stays not out of love and/or dedication but because he cannot really conceptualize or accept the idea of living outside the dysfunctional system? What if the “love” was more of a prison that he could rationally understand the need to escape and yet could not seem to motivate himself to do so?

Given the time of year and where I’m currently working, my mind went to a kid returning home after spending the semester away at college right away. I imagined that, having tasted a life outside the home for the first time, the protagonist might be more likely to experience a sort of dissonance between the reality of his home life and upbringing in that environment and the reality of college where he was more easily able to define his life and space.

Making the house chaotic and unstable but not, seemingly, a place where physical abuse was taking place was important to me. For one thing, there’s more than one way to have a traumatic environment and the pain of instability and constant random and usually unresolved arguments can be just as real as bruises. Additionally, it limited the melodrama of the piece—physical violence is just “bigger” and therefore a more dominant storytelling element—and allowed me to sidestep the question that often comes up for readers, realistically, why would this person stay with all this physical cruelty. I think people are more easily able to accept someone staying in a volatile but nonviolent household than an physically abusive one. However, many of the reasons someone would stay in either place are similar so I would not lose that storytelling element.