Saturday, February 4, 2023

MTSU Senior Composes Collection of Impactful Short Stories for Honors Thesis

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Luke Cameron | Contributing Writer

Photos by Luke Cameron

Middle Tennessee State University senior Charlotte Daigle is currently putting the finishing touches on a short story collection that hopefully will be published in the second half of 2023. The collection will contain 19 original stories, which will also serve as part of Daigle’s Honors thesis. Daigle, an MTSU Buchanan Fellow, has received three Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity grants during the time she has been at work on the collection. 

The genesis for the short story project was a brainstorming session she had with Buchanan Fellows academic advisor Laura Clippard two years ago. 

Daigle initially wanted to write a novel and has had one in the works for the past eight years; However, when that idea started to seem a bit too ambitious for her thesis, she opted for a collection of short stories instead. 

The stories each center around one of five themes: military personnel and their families, mental health awareness, the nighttime, difficult topics and the power of words. The collection is chiefly concerned with personas, perspectives and points-of-view. 

“The focus of it is giving my readers various perspectives,” Daigle said of her collection, titled “Through a Different Eye.”

To prepare herself to write the stories, Daigle studied some masters of the American short story. She said, “I did research on various short story writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Flannery O’Connor. I loved how they used perspective, persona, points-of-view and especially how they developed those.” 

Daigle’s favorite piece in her own collection is called “Remember”. It takes the reader on a historical journey from the era of American slavery to the Trail of Tears to the Holocaust. The story was inspired by a song called “The Emerald Stream” by Seth Houston in which she performed in her freshman year as a member of MTSU’s Schola Cantorum singing group. 

“In high school, my teacher said some people in the world try to say that the Holocaust was just a hoax,” Daigle explained. She also noted that it seemed in each generation, less knowledge is being passed down about events like the Trail of Tears. She emphasized that to forget or deny horrific acts humans have been capable of in the past is the mistake of humanity. 

“To forget or deny the horrific things the past shows that humans are capable of doing is the mistake of humanity. The slaves — families were torn apart, forced to work in terrible conditions, and beaten, raped, sold, and killed,” Daigle explained. 

Daigle believes that of her stories that focus on the military, “The Uniform” is her favorite. She saids, “‘The Uniform” is about a father who fought in World War I and comes back with PTSD, but the perspective is from his daughter. She’s only a little girl, and she kind of notices the change in her father’s behavior. It’s her journey of watching her father deteriorate.” 

The story “The Mission” is based on an Old English poem called “The Wanderer”  and tells of a soldier who loses his commander in battle. “The Eulogy,” told from the perspective of a mother, follows her son’s life from birth to his death as a soldier. 

Her stories about the nighttime comprise a framed narrative. “With a framed narrative, you kind of go in and out, and you zoom in, zoom out,” she explained.

Daigle’s short stories about difficult topics center around some of the fissures that have made their way through the fabric of American society. Her hope is that her stories will give the readers new perspectives to consider.

“In the end, you’re my brother and I’m your sister,” Daigle said. “Genetically, we’re on the same side. It doesn’t matter what skin color we are. It doesn’t matter what our background is. It doesn’t matter where we’ve been or where we will go. We’re all human.” 

One of the stories in this category is about two boys, one white and one black, who are friends as children but who grow apart as they get older. She explained that children are born without prejudice, judgment or hate in their hearts, but are taught it as they grow older.

Her tales concerning the power of words were inspired by personal experiences that instilled in her the force of language and interpersonal communication. “If you say something it can change someone’s life. Words do have power,” she said. “I try to smile at everyone that I pass by, just because I know sometimes it’s that smile that can make them think, ‘There’s someone who cares enough to smile at me.’”

The stories about mental health in the collection arose from her perception of how mental health  is undervalued and misunderstood.

“I think it’s important to know that it’s okay,” Daigle said. “It’s okay to ask for help. There’s not something wrong with you if you go to therapy. It’s okay to be on medication. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, as long as you’re not running. Because if you run, your problems will always find you. Everyone goes through tough times, but also everyone can get out of them.” 

Daigle hopes readers leave her stories with feelings of humility, understanding and community. She hopes they see their own struggles in the struggles of the characters in the fiction; Daigle seeks to unite and make a difference. 

As Daigle wraps up the years-long short story collection creation process along with her MTSU undergraduate career, she is glad she decided to come to Murfreesboro for college. 

Daigle credits her writing center tutor and MTSU faculty Dr. Rhonda McDaniel, Dr. Fred Arroyo and Dr. Gaylord Brewer among many others helping her navigate the process of writing and editing “Through a Different Eye”.  

“Dr. Arroyo changed my writing for the better, and Dr. McDaniel is one of the main influences and foundations in my education. I found my confidence in myself through her. She’s the one who changed my outlook on things,” Daigle said. 

Her advice to other students is to never stop learning and try new things. She encourages others to shoot for the stars despite the sometimes monotonous lifestyle students can get stuck in.

When the “Through a Different Eye” short story collection is published, Daigle believes readers will find she has given a lot of herself to the project. She said, “That’s all my writing is — it’s blood, sweat, tears, headaches, and lots of coffee and sugar.”

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com. For more news, visit www.mtsusidelines.com, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News

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