does not describe me fully
it is where to start
Saturday, August 7, 2010
A Short Story Took Over My Life
An idea about a woman in conflict came to me, and I immediately recognized its potential for the basis of a short story. I was concerned, though, about taking precious time away from my work-in-progress novel, which already had to compete for time with daily life obligations.
It’s a short story, I told myself. With a brief leave of absence, I could write the story and then return to my novel.
I immediately banged out a reasonably complete 1200-word story. I liked what I saw. It had all the necessary components of a story: conflict, setbacks, resolution, etc. I had even created multi-dimensional characters.
The next morning I read the story with a sinking feeling. It was a good story, but incomplete. So I added emotional shading to my protagonist. I printed the new version, read it, and thought, Great! Then I went off to take care of Life.
The story was there when I approached my computer the next morning. This time, I discovered that the order of the paragraphs (read action) was clumsy. I fixed all that, printed the story, liked what I saw, and moved on to Life.
I arrived the next morning with the intention of researching potential markets for the story. Except I read the story again and discovered that I didn’t like this adjective here or that verb there and, by the way, the woman’s husband had no sympathetic qualities. This meant that the reader’s identification with the female protagonist was in jeopardy because what worthy woman would fall in love with such a flawed man? That happens all the time in real life, I know, but as the writer I had to communicate why she was attracted to him. So I worked on adding dimensionality to the husband. And, yes, printed the story, liked it; you must be seeing a pattern here.
I won’t describe in more detail how this process has repeated itself for the last three weeks, during which time I have not written a single word for my novel. I finally achieved, though, a 1985-word short story which looks to be in more-than-decent shape. And, yes, I feel this way after successive morning readings.
I still couldn't get back to my novel, though. I now had to allot my writing time quota to thinking about where to send my newly minted short story. I opened my literary review files, only to be blasted away by the sheer number of potential reviews to which I could submit my story. Mind you, that master list has long since been culled to include only what I consider to be suitable/desirable markets for my type of writing. That was when I realized that this part of the process was going to take more time away from ... yeah, my novel.
I asked myself if I even remembered anymore what my novel characters were doing and realized I had better reread the work-in-progress novel to find out. I started doing that, only to discover that there is so much to fix, it's not funny. So now I am tearing apart the early chapters of the WIP novel. In other words, I still am not writing new material. At least, though, I am in novel mode, I console myself.
But I haven’t sent out my short story yet! And Life Obligations are grumbling about being ignored. OMG. Isn’t this supposed to be fun?
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."