Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Short Story Challenge - Notes on weeks 1-5

      For those of you good enough to have been following my weekly short storychallenges, here is just a little summary of the five I have completed so far.
      Although I don't want to fret too much about every detail (the stories are a speed writing exercise after all), here is a quick summary of each one I have written, including creative decisions, trivia and possible improvements/changes I would have made if I had more time and/or was writing a longer story.

Opening Line: The Priest pulled out his finger from the stripper’s ear lobe in shock…

      This one in particular was very important to reconcile the initially ridiculous and implausible sounding opening line with a story that actually makes sense. The main themes being that of a very human willingness to create mental links and see causality and meaning where there necessarily isn’t any – rather transparently illustrated here by a man of religious belief (religion being heavy on symbolism and meaning as it is) against the more common supernatural beliefs even non religious people experience every day with their thoughts on coincidence, destiny and so on.
      This story is not an attack on religion – just an observation of how we are all prone to ascribing meaning in everything around us – especially when we feel heightened, such as in a time of crisis.
      I was lucky to come across an image on the London Eye lit up in red whilst doing a google image search (I originally wasn't sure it could be that colour) but it turned out to be a fitting end for the story both thematically and with its setting.

Opening Line: “No thanks, I’m on a diet”, she replied without looking. It wasn’t quite the answer he had hoped for. Time for plan ‘B’…

      This one was the most fun to write and probably the most accessible to readers for its relative simplicity. It’s very dialogue heavy - which accounts for a lot of this – but writing dialogue does come a lot easier to me.
      There were two main conceits with this story that make it particularly effective. Firstly, the opening suggests a romantic or ‘date’ type setting which immediately forms expectations for the reader that I could later subvert. Secondly, the ending ‘twist’ where it is revealed that they were both trying to kill each other the whole time adds another layer to the story that gives further significance to the opening that the reader was not initially aware of.
      If I had more time with this one I would have probably taken longer to flesh out the ending as well as perhaps explain the motivations for each character and why they actually wanted to kill each other.

Opening Line: Let’s face it, I’ve had much worse things stuck to the bottom of my shoe but this is definitely a first…

      I wanted this story to be in the style of old sci-fi/horror cautionary tales, reminiscent of Stephen King short stories or an episode of The Twilight Zone (with a little bit of Cronenberg body horror thrown in there as well). I also chose to do this one in a diary format just as a change of style, but also as it makes sense for someone to be talking to themselves in this way as they need to be isolated from anyone else at that time for the story to work. The challenge here was to communicate the events convincingly through only one man’s recordings to himself.
      Thematically, I am fascinated by the idea that in this modern age we have the technology to explore the outer reaches of space and yet there are still many new species being discovered all the time in the remote areas of our planet such as the vast rainforests and the deepest oceans.
      If I had more time I would have prolonged the transformation to make it more gradual, as well as to go more in depth into the kind of research he was doing out there in the jungle and to communicate more about how alone and helpless the character really was.
      The word ‘Palingenesis’ means the biological reproduction of oneself – fitting for the story – but even ‘genesis’ by itself evokes the idea of ‘creation’ and ‘rebirth’ – as well as alluding to the creation story - the dates used for the diary entries are a nod to this.

Opening Line: When one is kneading dough, it is imperative to have clean hands…

      The idea for this story came from playing with the dual meanings of the opening line as a rule of bakery and that of the code of an organized crime family – ‘dough’ was originally meant to literally represent the cash in their money laundering side of the business.
      I really didn't have much time to complete this story but if I did I would have gone into more depth about the exact operations that the narrator was involved in as well as a more gradual rise to power. I did like the conversational tone that the story was written in as it allowed me to be vague with a lot of these details (which would have required a lot more research on my part), but also as it communicated a cold detachment in the way in which he recounts the violent happenings in his life in a rather casual and factual manner.

Opening Line: The ivy had continued to grow since I left the village, now hiding the doorway behind it…

      This was my anti Secret Garden story, if you will. Rather than a place of forgiveness and healing as it was in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale, this garden is one of penance and ultimately death.
      The title comes from Canto XIII in Dante’s Inferno where in the second ring of the Seventh Circle of hell they arrive at the woods of suicide.
      I liked the idea of how a garden can get wild, dark and oppressive just because it has been left locked up and left untended – much like the narrator’s feelings of guilt and regret.
      I wasn't able to go into the specifics of why he killed his wife (again not enough time to explain his motivation) but I like the ambiguity of it all and letting the reader piece together what happened by simply giving them snippets of information or flashes of images.

      Anyway, thanks for reading  - I enjoy writing about the creative process and sharing it with you. Hope you will keep reading the stories as it's a fun challenge for me.
      Until next time dear reader!

13 August 2012

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