I call myself an aspiring novelist, but I also write short stories and essays and dabble in poetry and screenplays. Putting together applications for graduate school forced me to articulate how I see myself as a writer. This is an excerpt.
I don’t consider Philip K. Dick among my favorite writers, but reading and examining Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? in a literature class was a formative moment in the development of my writing. The android Rachel Rosen is convinced of her humanity, and I realized how much this fascinated me. The question of what it means to be human can be approached from two directions: looking at the human who seems in ways inhuman (like Thomas Harris’s Dr. Lecter or Lady Macbeth) or looking at the inhuman who seems in ways human (like Rachel Rosen or the pigs of Animal Farm). These are the dichotomies that most intrigue me.
To see dissonance in action, I might read psychologists Festinger and Carlsmith’s 1959 study “Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance” or anything by Kurt Vonnegut, who has colored my approach to character development. Villains can be well-meaning, and heroes can have ulterior motives; it’s deliciously disconcerting to root for Titus Andronicus when he makes children into a pie for their mother.