Z. K. Abraham (she/her) is a writer and psychiatrist. She completed a Master’s in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of Edinburgh. Her work has been published in FANTASY Magazine, The Rumpus, Podcastle, Necessary Fiction, The Chestnut Review, and more. She is a full member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association and is completing the Tim House Online Winter Workshop in winter 2024.
I have always been drawn to writing as a fundamental form of self-expression, imagination, and creativity. It has always been my passion.
I wrote my first story when I was 8 years old, while bored on a take-your-daughter to work day. After that, I attempted many stories and off-the-cuff personal essays, but I began seriously committing to a daily writing routine about 8 years ago. For the first year or two, my stories were overlong and unfocused. It took several more years of practice and editing to narrow my focus and streamline my writing.
Pivotal points along my writing journey have included critical feedback from trusted writing friends as well as my partner (a very talented writer). Reading short stories and novels through the lens of a writer has also helped me learn about pacing, foreshadowing, and character development, as well as providing fresh examples of sentence structure and inventive metaphors. I am continuously inspired by books across many genres and eras, from the work of Thomas Hardy to Ted Chiang to Alexander Kleeman and more. Also, I am a huge cinephile; movies inspire me to write cinematically.
I was able to make progress within the writing industry by going to creative events and online workshops, attending festivals, taking creative writing classes, applying to mentorships, and constantly talking about writing with my partner and writer friends. Getting my stories published has been a matter of constant effort, resiliency, and luck.
Since childhood, I have always written stories and novels within the speculative fiction space. Speculative fiction encompasses any fiction that is out of the bounds of strict realism or ordinary reality. The magical/unreal/surreal has always ignited a childlike sense of play and wonder within me, allowing me to use magical elements as metaphor and stretch the bounds of my narrative. Unexpected things can happen if the rules of regular life don't totally apply. The unreal can push us into a higher level of exploration and metaphysical questions. I particularly enjoy writing grounded science fiction and literary surrealist fiction. I like exploring the potential ways technology could affect our psychology I like to take a modern character living their life, facing some familial or existential issue, and exploring how a magical or scifi element might highlight or stretch their emotional experiences.
I write short stories, novels, as well as occasional poems and creative non-fiction. Hopefully, a novel of mine can be published in the next few years, if all goes well!
In the last year or so, I met with a regular writing group. We used prompts to generate ideas for stories. The prompts would be very creative and unexpected, and we would immediately write in short bursts in response. Being forced to focus and push past inhibitions for several minutes at a time allowed me to come up with strange fragments and beginnings of many stories. In the last year, that prompt group provided the seed for many of my stories (ex. a woman who turns into an orange, which I used to write a short story that was published). Historically, I haven't planned my stories very much; I would either have a seed of an idea or sit for a few minutes and come up with one, then run off and write in a flurry. That has allowed me to produce a lot of writing, which then requires a lot of editing. More recently, I plan my stories more and find my writing is much more efficient. My ideas also come from people in my life, films I watch, books I read, and conversations with my partner.
I love writing on a prose level, essentially writing the individual lines; choosing the right adjective or verbs, crafting metaphors, playing with the syntax of a sentence. That is the most beautiful part of writing for me.
The advice that has worked best for me is obvious but critical: to actually write. Consistently showing up to the page has been the most important part of my progress and development as a writer. Committing to showing up and working on what was holding me back, and producing the words, is crucial to getting better as a writer, to having actual stories and novels to work with. Commit and be kind to yourself and give yourself time.
I struggle with writer's block but perhaps in different ways than others. I find that I can always force myself to write; however, my writing becomes uninspired, unfocused, inefficient and laborious when I have a block. For me, that comes from being tired and not having a clear idea of what I want to write. Therefore, the way I can get through this block is to 1) rest 2) read books or watch films I enjoy, and try to analyze why they work 3) go back to the drawing board and figure out the most fundamental elements of the story I am writing, the main conflict, and if this is actually working.
I found Storiaverse through my partner, who has written several stories for Storiaverse. I heard great things and was lucky enough to present a story that was a good fit. Storiaverse is a new form of storytelling and a brilliant idea, and most importantly to me, it supports the work of talented writers and animators.
My recent story for Storiaverse is about a young millenial man who grew up in the West and is a child of East African Immigrants. He is arrogant and dismissive of others, as well as of his own culture. When he returns to East Africa with his parents on a trip, he decides to hike out to a sacred, hidden valley, despite warnings from his elders. What he uncovers will terrify him. This is a surreal, literary horror story, with themes of immigration, cultural displacement, and narcissism. I think it's a fun, unnerving descent into how one man's arrogance is his undoing.
I love that I can lean into writing a story with a cinematic lens. As a cinephile, I often imagine my stories as scenes playing out in my head; I have always enjoyed describing the details of a scene and using creative metaphor to convey sensory experience. I was really excited to craft a story with a potential animation in mind; I would get to see my descriptions brought to life and also expanded in unexpected ways.
Diversity and representation are hugely important for so many reasons. Authenticity, for one. We live in a diverse world and we want to reflect this reality in fiction. More representation adds complexity and nuance to our work. Readers get to see the world through a new lens, see the parallels between themselves and others, enhance their empathy, and expand their worldview. Fiction can be a shortcut to true understanding of the other. Fiction that narrowly represents being western, white, middle or upper class, able-bodied, straight, etc, limits the work. I have loved fiction by white writers and with white characters my entire life, and seen myself in those characters. However, I missed seeing myself, and I missed different life experiences in my characters. More diversity allows more types of complex characterization and a wider view of the human condition. I can see my loneliness and weirdness reflected in a white character, or a black character, or a character in a wheelchair. I can also see different perspectives, understand that people navigate the world in different ways, that people have different beliefs and traditions and longings. We can understand our similarities and challenge our assumptions and privileges.
I am still learning, but I try to reflect my own identity in my work, as well as others. I believe it's a balance of organic and purposeful effort to include diversity. Diversity in fiction is not required. But it can be beautiful and enriching. It might be interesting to challenge oneself to diversify one's work, if it makes sense for your story.