The structure of what I write is the structure of my emotional life. My fiction isn’t autobiographical in any overt way. Yet how I approach my subject matter depends on the way I see the world and myself in it. Therefore, conceptually, perceptually, structurally, I write the narrative of my life the way I write any narrative—certainly in words but, in a deeper sense, in images. Strung together in the mind, they form a constellation of emotions unique to me. The physical manuscript is a chart of these moments, an inner star map, a personal zodiac that makes it possible for others to see what I have seen and feel the way I have felt. The secret of such navigation is not in the words but in the structural relations between them, not in any given star but in the proportionality of the constellation.
This is my current understanding of creative writing: building associations between emotional states instead of focusing on monolithic things (characters, paragraphs, settings, scenes). A character is a humanlike set of particularities that exist in relation to something else. A paragraph is a movement, an emotional gesture. A setting is an environmental set of particularities, also significant insofar as it relates to something else (even to the eye of the reader, Mr. Fish). A scene is all of the above moving together and in relation to all the other scenes. And all of it exists for one purpose—to map a structure of intricate emotional movements that took place first in my mind, now in yours.
Is this difficult or complicated? Not really. But it is more honest, more elemental (-ary), than saying, “according to so-and-so, a character should do X, Y, and Z in a dramatic scene.” Focusing on X, Y, and Z misses the point. I don’t write to fulfill a preset arrangement of static constituent categories. I write to move my reader. And that is just as dynamic, relational, and variable as any emotion I might feel.