Sunday, 19 April 2009

What happened in the end?

Last night I had a dream about the process of writing (how sad is that?) in which I was in the kitchen making a story from recipe book. 2lbs of main character, sieved, with 6oz of adversity and 2oz of resolution to be kept back then warmed up and drizzled over at the end. 

I finished the story I began last week and the end that I ended up with wasn't the same end I had in mind when I started. Something serendipitous happened along the way which took me in a different direction and led to a much more effective finish.

 I've walked round with a first line in my head for nearly a month but no story to go with it. Then I had a teeny-weeny idea for the story, very weak indeed, the equivalent of woman goes to shops, looses purse, comes back, but I got started because I have great faith in the telling and more importantly, I knew that my heroine was to come out of this story stronger than when she went in. I also had a theme, because I was writing for a competition. A theme is a useful device, but it isn't rocket science to come up with one. Think of an abstract noun: love; jealousy; anger; grief; alienation. They're all themes. It is in the concrete happenings during the story that themes are revealed.

So there were my ingredients. One line, a main character, a theme and weakest of all, a plotline.
I started. I wrote about 750 words and then scrapped 700 of them, my usual bad habit of not getting on with the plot fast enough, but also a useful exercise in which I get to know my character. I kept the theme in mind which gave me certain parameters and at about half way through, turned to the web to do a little piece of research about a road name. This was when the serendipity occurred. I'm not going to say the precise nature of what it was but it meant scrapping an entire character and a very funny scene, but it was worth it.

The significant thing, now I look back, is the ability to recognise the need to change when it occurs. During the writing process for a short story, my mind is always on it, tickling away, I glance down every avenue of possibility just in case there is a fantastic vista that way, but I've learnt to glance and not linger. Occasionally there is a fantastic vista though and you just have to go look.

Altogether, for my 2,500 word story I wrote about 3,500 or even 4,000 and it took many hours. I redrafted some inner soliloquy into dialogue for more variety and hinted at something instead of saying it directly, for more intrigue. I did keep the first line though and the last line wrote itself while I was busy trying to work out what it would be. I'll let you know how I get on.


  1. excellent! when do we get to read it? :-)

  2. Not for months or at least until the competition gets judged. I'll keep you posted though. Wish me luck!

  3. If the story is as good as this piece you deserve to win! :)

  4. Thanks, but I'm not holding my breath! Btw, I always find that I can't post a comment first time on here, but second time I click, it does it straight away. Don't understand...

  5. I've been obliged to do some fiction writing on a course I've undertaken and wow, it's hard. I have renewed respect for everyone who tenaciously keeps at it - and I loved the dream!

  6. Thanks for the comment litlove, I'm glad you liked the dream. I fear it is something to do with writing the same story over and over, rather like making a cake, chocolate or lemon drizzle, it's still a cake!