Writing a Short Story — A Single Reversal and a Happy Ending
Where to begin? Many dynamic stories contain a double reversal. Things are going well, then they are not, and then it ends well, or; it is going poorly, then it seems to be going well, then it ends horribly. Before the double reversal, there was the single reversal. Let’s work on building one of those.
The plot of a single reversal is very simple. For a happy ending it is — something is going bad, then it goes well. For a tragic ending it is — something is going well, then it doesn’t. So . . .
Something is going bad for someone, then it gets better.
Now we need to add a little more context. Do we want it to be about money, career, love, survival, or something else? Let’s do a struggle of a person against themselves and see how that goes.
A man is afraid that his son will not like him, maybe it would even be better if they never met, if his son never knew. He hired a genealogy expert to find out more about his ancestry. What he didn’t know is that she would find out that he has a son. Thirteen years old and they have never met. Now he is staring at an email. Should he send it? Will this be good for him, will this be good for his son? An agonizing evening alone staring at the computer screen; trying to watch TV, vacuum, reorganize the bookshelf, staring out the window, and wondering. Finally, he sees a painting that he made with his mother and realizes that the risk is worth the possibility of the reward.
That was 131 words. Some short stories are as small as 500 to 1000 words, so this will happen pretty quick.
It’s like the button is screaming at you. Now is such a final word, right Now, such a strong word. Should I click it? Maybe, I don’t know.
It’s a big deal. I can’t unsend it. Craig Jones. It seems weird to have a kid; a kid, especially a kid named Craig. This isn’t what I paid the genealogist for, to find a thirteen year old son, this isn’t what I paid for.
I don’t know anything about him. He will probably hate me at this point. Would I hate me? Probably. A father that has never been there, never. If your father suddenly comes into your life at 13 he probably isn’t a good guy, or he wants something, or something.
Not a single notice on facebook. A notification would be good. All of this stuff. Does anyone even look at my posts? It seems like more people would see my posts.
A single new email, I should probably unsubscribe from that. Maybe next time.
Should I even email Craig directly? Is that appropriate? Is there an appropriate thing to do? He isn’t a small kid. If I am going to have a real relationship with him I should email him. Right? That seems right.
No, that seems like a horrible idea.
A facebook notification. I should probably check that. Someone liked my background photo, great.
I should probably do the dishes. Sometimes it seems like doing them by hand is good, kind of takes your mind off things.
Should I send this email first? Should I delete this email?
The kid, Craig; Craig probably has a great life. He probably doesn’t need a “new” father, but maybe that isn’t true. Maybe he could use some help, or something.
No facebook notifications, none. A billion people and no one wants to comment on my posts.
Maybe there is something on television. Why do I even have television? Two hundred channels and I watch maybe four consistently, and then they usually don’t have anything good on them, or if there is then I have already watched it. I would do the whole internet television thing, maybe later.
That painting, that painting was a good time. That’s the real reason to keep a painting around, to remind you of something.
I did that painting. It feels good to make something, to create something. Is that why people have kids? Is that a good reason to send an email to Craig? I created you; that doesn’t seem right.
That painting though, I made that with my mom. That was a fun night. Making something with a parent. Maybe I could do that with Craig. A painting class. Probably not a whole lot of thirteen-year-old boys that are into that. It’s still a cool thing, maybe he would be interested. Maybe something else.
I recently hired a genealogist to look into some of my ancestry. I was surprised to find out that we are related. I just wanted to introduce myself and see how you are doing. So . . . how are you doing?
Right now I don’t have a relationship with Craig, I will never go to a painting class with him. If this doesn’t work out then I still won’t go to a painting class with him, but if this does work out then maybe we could do something like that.
Just having a chance at that painting class is worth it.
That is a weird little short story. I am not sure it really works. Is it realistic? It’s hard to say. It has an unusual perspective. A single person thinking through a decision to themselves. It came to 579 words. I brought the beginning back around to the end to make a fairly clean ending, that was nice.
The Ancient Greeks really liked the tragic single reversal, maybe I will try that next; or maybe I will work with a double reversal. Either way, you are welcome to join me at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com