My short story, ‘Shiver/Sugar’, is a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ version of ‘The Girl Without Hands’. The narrator of my version is the handless girl who is now telling her story as an adult. Because she doesn’t have hands she can’t therefore type or hold a pen, so the story focusses on how she might go about recording her story verbally. After writing the first draft I considered the story’s oral origins (Aarne-Thompson Tale Type 706) with regard to this narrator’s voice. Was it possible to transform my written first draft (of a narrator’s spoken voice) back into an oral story and then take it further – back into a written form again, using contemporary tools? What would happen to the language during these processes? After considering which tools a narrator who has no hands could use to tell their story, I experimented with recording my voice speaking the first draft into a malfunctioning talk-to-text app. Using this process, the mis-represented words became nonsensical, yet there were several ideas and phrases worth using. Language was being mistranslated into sound-alike words.
One of the advantages of being a fiction writer in this digital age is that through writing it is possible to dissociate from the languages of online textual noise, and reconnect with the nostalgic role of the storyteller: to write in the language of stories, for anyone who wishes to read. One of the disadvantages of being a fiction writer in this digital age, is that getting people to deeply engage with written texts for long durations of time is problematic. As the ways people read are changing, due to a rapid “transition from a literacy-based culture to a digital one” (Wolf 2018, 3), the ways stories are told also need to be explored.
Dr Jess Richards, Massey University, New Zealand, and from January 2023, Faculty of Arts Humanities and Cultures, University of Leeds, UK.
Jess Richards is the author of three novels: Snake Ropes, Cooking with Bones and City of Circles, all published by Sceptre in the UK. She also writes short fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry – many of these texts have been published in various anthologies. She is currently working on a creative nonfiction book called Birds and Ghosts. Jess lives in New Zealand with her wife, but will be returning to the UK in late 2022 to take up a Creative Writing Lectureship position at the University of Leeds. She completed her PhD, ‘Illusions, Transformations and Iterations: Storytelling as Fiction, Image, Artefact’, at Massey University in 2020.