CRAFT STUDIO BY GUEST WRITER JULIA JENKINS: IN THE DREAM HOUSE
What I was Reading:
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado is an experimental memoir following the theme of domestic abuse within queer relationships. This book is a uniquely written masterpiece, and Machado is a trailblazer not only in the genre of queer non-fiction, but for creative writing as a whole. From front to back this book is bursting with craft moves, making it hard to choose where to even begin. For this reason, I have simply chosen the first page.
Dream House as Not a Metaphor
I daresay you have heard of the Dream House? It is, as you know, a real place. It stands upright. It is next to a forest and at the rim of a sward. It has a foundation, though rumours of the dead buried within it are, almost certainly, fiction. There used to be a swing dangling from a tree branch but now it’s just a rope, with a single knot swaying in the wind. You may have heard stories about the landlord, but I assure you they are untrue. After all, the landlord is not a man but an entire university. A tiny city of landlords! Can you imagine?
Most of your assumptions are correct: it has doors and walls and windows and a roof. If you are assuming there are two bedrooms, you are both right and wrong. Who is to say that there are only two bedrooms? Every room can be a bedroom: you only need a bed, or not even that. You only need to sleep there. The inhabitant gives the room its purpose. Your actions are mightier than any architect’s intentions.
I bring this up because it is important to remember that the Dream House is real. It is as real as the book you are holding in your hands, though significantly less terrifying. If I cared to, I could give you its address, and you could drive there in your own car and sit in front of that Dream House and try to imagine the things that have happened inside. I wouldn’t recommend it. But you could. No one would stop you.
What Moves I Notice the Author Making:
- In the second paragraph she writes: “Most of your assumptions are correct: it has doors and walls and windows and a roof.” She makes us feel like she is reading our mind, strengthening our connection to the dream house. I related this to the way a bogus psychic may trick their clients into thinking they can see the spirits of their loved ones by using vague terminology and making simple assumptions.
- Machado connects the physical world of the reader to the words on the page. She writes, “I bring this up because it is important to remember that the Dream House is real. It is as real as the book you are holding in your hands.” Machado takes the tangible book (or e-reader) we are holding and ties it to the otherwise intangible story she is telling. The author is trying to show us just how real the dream house, and in turn, this story, is.
- The third craft move is not necessarily one specific thing she has done, but something she has done multiple times, and ties into the previous two moves of ensuring we understand the Dream House as a real Machado writes the Dream House as a proper noun by capitalizing both the D and H, as opposed to referring it as “my old house”, or something along those lines. By doing this, we perceive the Dream House to be just as real as Disney World or Canada’s Wonderland. Additionally, Machado tells us that we could hypothetically drive to the dream house: “If I cared to, I could give you its address, and you could drive there in your own car and sit in front of that Dream House and try to imagine the things that have happened inside. I wouldn’t recommend it. But you could. No one would stop you.”
Possibilities for Writers:
- Read other excerpts from In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado and see what other craft moves you can notice, name and try out.
- Try to assume what the reader is thinking about what you are writing and reference their thoughts.
- Try to write about a location using the moves you notice Machado using with the Dream House.