“Character Sketch for the Oil CEO” by Alyssa Quinn will be featured in an upcoming issue of Mid-American Review.
“Character Sketch for the Oil CEO” by Alyssa Quinn is an astounding metafictional work that shifts the authorial lens back onto the author (fictional, in this case). Though the story maps out the traits and behaviors of an oil CEO, the story also reveals the biases and preferences of the writer, an implicit character in the narrative. The writer deliberates over whether the CEO can be blamed for the cataclysmic oil spill his company has likely caused. The writer agonizes over this guilt in the same way the character might: “he is just a single person in such a large system, does he really matter that much, can he really be blamed? Can he?” The unfamiliarity of hearing this wavering from the writer exposes the tendency of writers to replicate themselves in their characters.
This story also challenges perceptions of how real characters are and what their creators owe them. Intimate description is usually considered a fundamental tool of characterization: an achievement when used well. Quinn makes it feel like an invasion. “You could follow him into the shower, describe the way he washes.” We chose this piece not because it sketches an Oil CEO well—though it does—but because it makes us doubt whether we should be sketching him at all. Perhaps he does not want to be “summoned by every sentence.”
—Daniel Marcantuono, MAR