In this segment of The Story Behind the Story, Erica Plouffe Lazure talks about what motivated her to write "Stacks."
I started going to thrift shops back in high school. Every visit promised an adventure, and you never knew what you were going to find, but the payoff would be great if you knew how to look. Eventually I got good at knowing what to look for and how to look for it, and for the cost of pocket change, I’d often return home with ancient elevator shoes, dusty trench coats, feathered felt hats, and funky purses.
Little did I know that my trips to the thrift shop would come to parallel aspects of my writing life. When I write I hope to discover (and offer to my readers) something unexpected, something a bit out of the ordinary, something that might flirt with nostalgia. Whether thrifting or writing, I relish in the delight of the unanticipated, a peculiar take on the familiar.
Enter “Stacks.” Inspired by an evening or two up at a former hardware and feed store turned concert venue out at R.A Fountain & Sons in eastern North Carolina, “Stacks” overlays the funky, thrift shop feel of the place with a rather playful (but painful) power dynamic via the checkers game. R.A. Fountain is more of a concert venue than thrift shop, but the hodgepodge of objects (complete with relics and board games and dusty books and Cheerwine soda and boiled peanuts and buttermilk pie and everything else you might expect to find in a town that has a single stoplight) offers up that same sense of unanticipated nostalgia, a home for wayward relics, and draws both patrons and performers from all corners of the state.
I love to people-watch, especially at venues like these, and after a rather harrowing (real life) checkers game in Fountain, the landscape of the story settled on a couple playing checkers amid a musical performance. Simple enough, until you get a glimpse into what’s going on in the woman’s mind, and how that shapes what she says, how she navigates her way both through the checkers game and her conversation with her date. The flash-forward offers a sense of closure beyond the scope of the game and the venue, and allows the reader to understand the certain doom awaiting this couple even before they do. As if the checkers game wasn’t hint enough.
“Stacks” offers us a tour of this tiny venue and one among the range of stories that could have possibly emerged from it. Just like a trip to the thrift shop, I don’t have to know what I’m looking for when I’m writing a story, but I know I’ve found it when I find it. I often look for different approaches to my storytelling, trying out for size different voices and perspectives. Once I discover the right tone, the right voice, the story takes on a life of its own, and, like a trip to the thrift shop, I know yet another adventure awaits me.