Tell Me a Story: Part 3

For those who have been following along, the question at the end of Part 2 was whether a third character should narrate the story.

And the story so far: King Felipe promised to marry the Duchess Josefa if she bore him a son. But he betrays her and marries another. Josefa, duchess and witch, stays pregnant for nine years, maliciously keeping the King’s son from him. But when the Queen dies and the King once again plans to marry another, Josefa gives birth to a magical, evil child. Prince of the Black Heart.

To revenge his mother’s honor, Prince Severiano travels to the capital where Felipe’s wedding to the foreign princess is taking place. Accompanying him is my potential narrator, the giant Marquez.

If Marquez is to tell this story, he has to have some stake in how it ends. He also needs his own character arc.

As a young giant, he promised the Duke of Fontanár that he’d guard Josefa, then a child, with his body and soul. To keep that promise, he’s committed all sorts of heinous acts, including the murders of the king’s messengers. The story might begin with Marquez murdering the ninth of nine messengers, cleaving him from crown to groin with his broadsword.

He’s a giant, after all.

It’s the end that’s giving me fits. Josefa has a change of heart and arrives at the wedding in time to–what? Save the king? Or would it be better if Severiano kills the king? Save the foreign princess? That unfortunate young woman’s only purpose in the story is to die.

No, for this to work, Josefa arrives in time to destroy her son before he murders the sole remaining royal, the king’s daughter by his first wife. The princess becomes Queen of Talavera.

In destroying Severiano, Josefa destroys herself.

I dunno. It seems a bit of a snarl to me. Marquez as observer-narrator doesn’t really work. He may be horrified by events, but does he change?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Submission Calls

I started writing short stories in 2017 after reading about the Ray Bradbury challenge. Bradbury recommends writing a short story a week, and that it isn’t possible to write fifty-two bad short stories. I aimed to prove him wrong.

At the end of the year, I had thirty-six completed short stories, fourteen of which were deemed good enough—after much revising—to submit for publication. Since I began, I’ve sent these fourteen stories out seventy-seven times total. Six are currently pending. Five were accepted for publication, three of which have been published.

In case you’re wondering, I’ve had sixty-six rejections, not counting the rejections from agents I’ve queried. Novels don’t count.

So I wondered. Would I have better luck if I wrote short stories specifically for submission calls? I’m about to find out.

I stumbled across a submission call for a dark romance. Lucky for me, I had exactly that in my “story starts” folder. After some frantic revision, I sent it off. While waiting for a response to the submission, I reread the story–a mistake because now I’m perseverating. I think I made three errors—not typos and not grammar. Fixed, I could have improved my story arc. Serves me right for rushing.

Next, I found a submission call for a horror story similar to a premise I’d been trying to get on paper since 2017. I managed to complete the piece, but here come the doubts. Is it an overdone trope? Is the twist predictable? Are the characters likeable—especially the main character? Do I have too little exposition? Too much? Is the dialogue stilted? Is it overwritten? Underwritten? Enough descriptive detail or too much?

Time will tell. I have to keep reminding myself to embrace rejection, be patient, trust the process, and learn to be lucky.

Make Something Happen

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A little more than a year ago, I started reading slush for an online flash fiction zine. I expected to learn tons about writing short stories and flash in particular. And I did.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that in 2017, I took up the Ray Bradbury challenge to write 52 short stories. Bradbury says it’s not possible to write 52 bad stories, and I aimed to prove him wrong.

Honestly, my first five or six stories looked like 52 bad stories was a possibility. They were only good for the trash heap. But, with a little—okay a lot of—help from Anna Yeatts and my experience reading slush, I had five stories accepted for publication last year.

The main thing I learned about writing short stories was that something has to happen. It’s fine to have dark and stormy nights or bright and sunny days. Lovely prose is a delight. But if nothing happens, you ain’t got story.

This is where I think a lot of writers (based on my slush reading) get a bit lost. They have a great premise, but nothing happens.

For example, I wrote a story called “The Stain on the Wall” about a mother and son who move into a house where a tiny stain on the staircase wall keeps getting bigger. But there it stopped. All premise, no story. What’s behind the stain? Ghosts? Poltergeists? A doorway to hell? And what happens to Mom and son?

Never figured it out—at least not so far. So not a story. Yet.

Speaking of stories, my query saga for my completed novel, The Last Summer Queen, continues. Eight queries out the door with a ninth tomorrow. Two “not interested” replies. Notice, I’m not calling them rejections.

Please keep on sending lucky vibes my way. Fingers crossed.

Taking Stock

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Every year since leaving corporate America, I’ve set two goals. One for gardening and the other for writing. In 2017, I followed Ray Bradbury’s suggestion, to write 52 short stories. Bradbury says that you can’t write 52 BAD stories. I set out to prove him wrong.

But no. He was right. I came away from 2017 with 33 short stories, most bad. But what to do with the good ones? I had no clue.

And then, I stumbled on Anna Yeatts by signing up for a Write Stories That Sell course. Halfway through the course, I had to deal with a pantry moth infestation and stopped doing anything unrelated to killing bugs.

Anna sent an auto-reminder to finish the course.

Irritably, I emailed back that I’d get back to it when–someday–I vanquished the pantry moths hanging off my ceiling. And Anna responded with: Pantry moths are the worst! Impressing me with the hands-on touch.

After spending untold sums on books, groups, and programs to learn writing craft, I signed on with Anna. Now–18 months later–I’ve had five short stories accepted for publication, with two already published.

Goal accomplished? Yes, but achievement breeds more goals. It’s fall, a time for taking stock, and as 2019 looms, I count on the two things I learned this year.

  1. I wasn’t able to write 52 (or 33) bad stories. Thank you Ray Bradbury and Anna Yeatts.
  2. It’s never too late.

 

Pleasantly Surprised

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As a life-long pessimist, I like to tell people-who-call-me-on-it that optimists are never pleasantly surprised. It takes a lot of energy to search out that silver lining when the sky is filled with black clouds.

But early yesterday morning, I was pleasantly surprised—so much so that I lived the rest of yesterday in a fog of optimism.

Another of my stories sold and will be published this month.

Meanwhile, if you’re interested, go to The Arcanist for a quick five minute read, published at the end of August.

Who Should I Be Today?

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Last year, I took on the Ray Bradbury challenge to write 52 short stories in a year.  I fell a bit short, only writing 32 and most were bad. But I had a handful of not-half-bad stories, and three that seemed good.

One of the things I learned along the way was how to be another person. Never mind that I’m a–well let’s call it ‘senior’–female. I could be an out-of-work 30 year old male, a mean and murderous female school teacher, a male retiree bent on revenge … you get the picture.

Weeding the mermaid garden this morning, I wondered what it would be like to sing songs  to destroy men and ships.