By acting as my first reader, my wife Marion helped me enormously with my short story, “Channeling Rusty” [since renamed “A Brief Encounter”]. She make a lot of perceptive comments and asked some good questions. Aside from pointing out some minor things, which were much appreciated, she helped me look at things that would strengthen the story. More conflict between rational disbelief and the desire to entertain belief is needed between the two human characters. They need more differentiation.
The main thing she helped me with was understanding that the plot was weak. She wanted it to have more of a peak and denouement. I agree totally. In the immortal words of the Everley Brothers, “the movie wasn’t so hot; it didn’t have much of a plot.”
Plot is my weakest area. As soon as she described what bothered her about the story it clicked, yes, this is what’s the matter with it. I knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t quite figure it out.
As an essayist, plot has never been an issue. My essay writing moves from idea to idea, concept to concept, observation to observation, across some theme. I’m not a natural-born storyteller, but if I want to write fiction, I need to become one. As I said to Marion, I need to practice making up stories about things as a mental exercise. Perhaps there’s a storyteller inside, waiting to be discovered.
I had an epiphany about this as I discussed it with Marion. If I try my hand at fiction, working really hard at it, and fail, I don’t mind. What would bother me is always wondering if I could write fiction, but not trying. I love essays and essay writing and have several in mind, so it’s not as though I would no longer be a writer. And who knows? I might succeed in writing passably good fiction. Time will tell. I think short story writing, and possibly a novel, is exciting territory to explore. Above all else, I love writing, even when I hate it.
They say that aging isn’t for wimps. Neither is writing. It’s hard work and has limited rewards. I think you need to be driven to write to stick with it.
What I love about this foray into fiction writing is that I’m learning and growing. As long as that’s happening, I’m not stagnating. I’m alive. Is that part of the reason why we write? I think perhaps it is.