Finding the Form with Rachel Lachmansingh
I’m the type of writer who thrives off of unknowing—if given too much information before I start a draft, I tend to burn out. This has always seemed strange to me as someone who otherwise prefers routine in other aspects of my life. Both of these feelings—a desire for stability and a desire for impulsivity—are central to my short story, “Slaughter the Animal,” both in its themes and its literal writing process.
Finding this story was both a careful and spontaneous experience. In the summer of 2020, I badly wanted to write a short story, but couldn’t come up with an idea. Here came the careful aspect of my brainstorming strategy: I sat in my backyard’s hammock to think. At the time, my dad had put up some wire fencing along the grass so the yard was split into two. I was in one half, and my dog, Liuna, whose favourite hobby is barking at neighbours, stood on the other. Of course, she was barking at me so she could bark at the neighbours. This was the spontaneous aspect of my brainstorming strategy: the image of someone in a hammock with their dog barking on the opposite side of new fencing became the opening of my story.
Like a lot of my stories do, the first few thousand words flew out of me (this is the type of drafting that I describe as subconscious). I drafted this way until I’d almost finished the story, but unexpectedly, the rush of words stopped. It took me two or three weeks from that point to feel ready to tackle the story again.
Again, I returned to the hammock to think, and in another spontaneous moment, a blackbird flew onto the roof of my house. That image alone clicked the story into place nearly instantly, and while the bird central to “Slaughter the Animal” is not a blackbird, but a goose, I’m thankful for that bird for helping me finish the story that would later find its home at The New Quarterly!
Rachel Lachmansingh is a Guyanese-Canadian writer from Toronto. Her writing has appeared in Minola Review, Grain Magazine, The Malahat Review, The New Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, and The Puritan, among others. She was longlisted for the 2022 CBC Short Story Prize and is currently pursuing her BA in creative writing.
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