Writing Out Loud #1 : The Short Story that Grew…
If I wait long enough a story appears. It’s my calling to catch and keep it. Usually a pen or Evernote is in reach. Then the work begins: to unravel the story into most of its truth. The rest is for the reader or remains unknown.
Like unravelling a twisted string strand by strand….or unwrapping a layered gift.
Writing is putting pen to paper. Writing is also eliciting words from a reluctant place. And the standard methods that work for other writers may not work. They don’t work for me. I have had to find my own way.
Short stories, yes.
Poetry, yes though not all the time.
Blogs, pages of scribbled and reorganised lines.
Novels, next subject, move along nothing left to see here.
Isn’t there a saying that everyone has a novel in them? I have two. Two and a half. Both and a half will stay unpublished most likely. For there’s no happy ending for heroine or author in either effort.
Reputedly, authors reputedly are either planners or pantsers. In my day job, I’m a planner. I have to be. Otherwise its thank you, good night and bad luck. But after hours, it doesn’t work.
For both novels, I created the story then wrote an outline. It looked great. It even conformed with the hero’s journey. Another tick. Following on I was then able to fill in the gaps. Up to a point.
Then I became stuck. The story refused to stay still. It defied the structure set for it. Each time, each novel had to be set aside.
And of course, I felt miffed. It’s a blog, I’m a writer, miffed isn’t the exact word here. In despair, I returned to short stories, blogs and poetry. Every so often I did try to revitalise the two novels but I didn’t succeed.
I hadn’t learn the lesson set out for me. Like that saying I received the test over and over again.
Until I carried out the following short story exercise. Take a character and sketch out six situations, three highlights and three lowlights.
My first attempt didn’t work. It was pretentious garbage. It now resides in my own personal slush pile.
But my second try…in three quarters of an hour’s work, I had written the synopsis of six possible short stories. Then I wrote them.
Then an oddity intruded. I found I could add to this series, in the future and in the past. I could tell the next part of each story. As the heap of stories increased, I asked myself what the motivation was for these stories. On a whim, I added that as well and the results astounded me.
When other writers asked me, what I was doing, I’d say, “I have all these short stories. I keep adding to them. I haven’t finished. I don’t really know what’s going on.”
Then again, I tried to fit it to a structure. I specifically used the hero’s journey. And here again I became stuck. For the story didn’t fit. Then I tried the heroine’s journey. It mostly worked. Yet it was not a novel. It was a series of short stories that follow a narrative.
And I was left wondering, can this be done? Has anyone done a story in this way? No answer to that question until…
The next conversation with my writers group. I mention what I’m doing again. Then I’m asked, “Have you heard of Junot Diaz?” I say, “No”. Then another person says, “He’s good, you’ll like him.”
I google Junot Diaz. He writes short stories revolving around a single character. He’s also a fan of the original BBC TV series of Edge of Darkness : a mini-series in which each episode is a story that stand she alone. We have more than one thing in common.
Originally published at Andrew James Whalan.