what happens next?
while it took a few more days and the realization that I was still clinging to unnecessary material, Uncle Deppo has finally cracked the 4000-word limit!
at just under 3900 words, the story is now, finally, complete! while i’ve previously thought it was a whole story, i’ve had the nagging feeling that something was missing, something i couldn’t quite put my hands on. it was only after a conversation with my wife after she read the version from last friday that i discovered what was missing. her reactions were largely very positive and she laughed where i hoped she’d laugh, which was great, but when we turned to things that needed work, she mentioned something that turned on the lightbulb for me, finally.
in college i took a Creative Writing class with a professor who asked me one question which fundamentally affected my development as a writer. i had submit a prose expansion of Edward Arlington Robinson’s Richard Cory, specifically the last two lines, describing that end.* while the story was full of detail regarding Mr. Cory wandering the empty halls of his fabulously rich mansion, my professor rightly saw straight through it all and asked me why? why did Richard Cory shoot himself?
I still remember sitting in his office when he asked me and realizing i had no answer. moreover, realizing i had never even considered the question before. this single moment and painfully self-evident question shook me and all my writerly aspirations more profoundly than i could possibly have imagined at that time. everything i have written, everything i watch, everything i hear since that time has been informed by that moment.**
i felt like such a fool that day. how could i not have seen that glaring flaw?
however, i never once considered giving it all up. looking back on that now, i wonder that that might have been an option. i don’t recall it ever even occurring to me, though, which i’m glad of. when my professor said these words, he was trying to help me, and he inspired me to prove that i could do better. which, i suppose, is another reason i’m a teacher, as well.
but i digress.
anyway, my wife asked me much the same question about Uncle Deppo. this time, though i had answers, the more i tried to explain them, the less satisfied i was with them. it’s not that i didn’t know where the character came from, who he was, or why he was doing what he was doing, but, it turns out, i hadn’t gone to the other side: what happens next? after the story, after the main events, what happens?
why does this matter, though? the story is done, what happens next is the next story, not this one.
true, to a point. for me, anyway. i discovered in this process that if i’m writing about Q, then i write best if i know P and S, as well. i don’t need to know A or Z, but without the step before and the step after, i lose sight of the continuity, of the larger ‘reality’ of the piece. for me, for my writing, for my sanity, i want to know that my stories work in the short and the long term. i am rarely more frustrated than when i have read a story or seen a film or show and enjoyed it***, only to realize later or the next day on thinking about it again that there is a major plot hole in it that largely, if not completely, invalidates the story. i mean-
oh, right. okay, i’ve probably ranted about that elsewhere, so suffice it to say that i try to avoid that in my work as much as possible.
which brings us back to Uncle Deppo. after talking with my wife and thinking about the story for a few more days, i finally discovered the piece that was missing yesterday morning. placing that piece in the story caused some revision repercussions throughout the rest of the work, but with that piece in place, the revisions were clear and easy and i finally have a piece to submit for the Odyssey Workshop.
or, at least, that’s what i’m hoping.
care to read it and give me your input?
* why such a morbid focus? i’m not really sure; there was just something about the tragedy of the lines and moment that intrigued me.
** seriously. ask my wife. (why didn’t that character do this? what made her say that? that doesn’t make any sense for her character. where did he learn to do that? why does he hate/love/fear them? those characters would never have known about this….)
*** yes, we’ve been through this; that’s a rare enough event.