Thursday, October 02, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Those of you who know me will be aware that, as an author, I am strongly against the idea of stories having a constructed message - that is, the story was written to illustrate a specific viewpoint or philosophy or to explore a certain issue under the guise of fiction.  Of course, all stories inevitably make some kind of statement about the world they reflect, but to me, that should be secondary - incidental, if you will - to the story itself.  To me, a good story has a life and existence of its own, which needs to be respected.

All of this is to preface why it might be surprising when I say that my problem trying to figure out the exact ending of Wine and Chocolate was solved by looking at the story question.  To me, the story question isn't one of underlying theme or meaning:  it's the core of where plot and character meet, the reason the reader keeps turning pages (we hope - both in that they turn pages, and that they're doing it for the same reason the author intended!), and the question that must be answered for the story to satisfy.  The resolution of the story question is arguably what separates a standalone story from a chapter in a novel.

(... although some editors who have read my short stories may disagree with me on this point ...)

Most often, for me, the answer to the story question is a, "Yes, but ..."  The main character is successful, but in achieving their desire, new complications arise, leaving the sensation - which is crucial in fiction, to me - that life goes on.

In any case, back to Wine and Chocolate:  the story starts with a specific problem and a mystery; the latter is resolved in what I hope is a pretty dramatic reveal late in the story, and then ... and then I halted.  When I had started the story, I had a very clear image of the arc to this point:  it was my goal in writing.  But I had no idea how to move from there to a conclusion.  I played with two or three possible resolutions, all of which felt unnecessarily drawn out and labored.  I couldn't quite put my finger on what wasn't working.

Then I realized that I was trying to "solve" the new issues raised by the reveal; to go back to my own terminology, I was trying to resolve everything after the "but," which was outside the scope of this story.  I need to pull back on my ending, reveal less, but lay groundwork for the reader to assume the eventual resolution.

So that's the direction I'm going.  It may be quite a while before Wine and Chocolate sees my submissions queue - I have about forty finished stories right now that haven't even seen the light of day; even considering some never will, that's a lot "ahead" of it - but I hope it will satisfy.

Yes, but ...

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