I’m starting to hitting a rhythm now on the short story I’m writing. It’s mostly been dribbling out a few words here and there since I started on it and for a while I thought it was because I’m tired with the new baby and everything else going on in my life. Then I realized this always happens to me on short stories I see as having potential to be great. I’ll have an idea in my head and when the right things click and I can start seeing it as a story, I think about it and stew about it and the words dribble out. This is always strange because beginning things has never been a problem. But with these certain short stories, I know I have something important and want to make sure I get the most out of it.
So with this story I have four different openings, none of which I used when I started the story for real. I’d write a few words and if I liked how they sounded I’d write a few more. Then I’d think about it for a while, deciding where to go next. I don’t have an ending in mind yet, but I wanted to at least know what was going to happen to the midway point of the story. Now I have that, and, as I’ve said, I’m starting to hit a rhythm. I’m using a lot of the material I gathered from my recent family trip to Las Vegas, plus my early, conflicted feelings about being a father and the kind of things I was shocked I was even capable of considering doing with my kids. My wife is not pleased when I tell her about the story, but I’m working through it anyway.
Now I’ve got a decision to make that I think will be the most important I’ve made for this story. I’ve got things figured out up to the midpoint of the story, but after that I’m conflicted. The opening few scenes are slow burning, quiet, and semi-realistic. But a few ideas have presented themselves to me that I think could be exciting but would change the mood of the story. This gets to the heart of what I think is one of my biggest issues in writing fiction: raising the stakes. I like small stakes, little moments, and epiphanies. I work in a genre that relies heavily on big stakes, life altering choices, and grand spectacle. I don’t have any problems coming up with ideas like this, but I have problems executing them successfully.
One of the reasons I switched away from writing detective novels and moved to more absurd, humorous crime novels, was so that I wouldn’t think some of my ideas were too ridiculous to work. And for the most part I think I was successful. The book is still mostly built on small stakes, and small-scale, choices, but its written in very broad strokes, and is fast-paced, and has a few gun fights. But with this story, I still have to figure out what I want it to be.
I initially thought it was going to be a darker character study of a father and his son, but as I pondered that and thought it out, I realized there was no real crime in it and would fall apart at the end. So I had a couple of cool ideas, a couple of eh ideas, and one tricky idea that somebody else could probably pull off spectacularly…but not me. I’ll probably have to try a few different things, but it will be a nice way to clean my brain out and keep me occupied while I wait back to hear about my novel. If I can get everything to work properly, I think this might be the best story I’ve ever written, if not, well, maybe I can add a donkey to it.