And then I got home, and made some notes, and it turns out that the “brilliant story suggestions” introduce some more conflict, at the cost of moving a few scenes around.
No spoilers for the short story, but it a) makes my antagonist a more interesting character, b) makes my protagonist have to make a very difficult decision, and c) allows me to illuminate how the protagonist plays games with the truth.
Some time ago, I started writing a short story, which at that point was titled “The Lake in the Library”. In its nebulous first lines, it featured a librarian, a library, and a lake in that library. Oh, and a lake monster of some sort.
Later, I had more ideas for the story, and a theme came to me like a bolt from the blue. I excised the lake and the lake monster, not without regret. (There’s no guarantee they won’t reappear; the story is very dreamy, in the literal sense of the word.)
On my bike ride this afternoon, I think I figured out a thematically-satisfying scene near the end of the short story I’m working on. It involves the doctrine of true names, a lawyer, a wizard, their son, and a rather dire threat.
I’m looking forward to writing it. I’ve got a couple sections to write before I get there, but now I’ve got a target to aim for.
I had an epiphany, at lunch time, about my current short story project. I have an ending, now, a nasty bull’s-eye to aim my narrative at.
What’s more, a lot of things I’d already sprinkled into the story have come into focus, especially the doctrine of true names. The protagonist has a solution to his problem, but he’s so desperate to avoid it that he’s unwilling to admit it to anyone, even himself.
I wonder if I knew the ending all along, too, and didn’t want to admit it to myself.
Listening to Metric’s “Breathing Underwater”, I suddenly realized that one of the lines — “I can see the end / But it hasn’t happened yet” — resonates pretty hard with my current work-in-progress. Like that’s a pretty pithy encapsulation of the entire theme of the story.
Also, if you haven’t encountered Metric before, you should really check them out. I haven’t heard a song from them I haven’t loved.
I’m working away on my library-full-of-self-erasing books, and I have a novel to finish writing, but I’ve had an idea and I want to pursue it soon. (Actually, it’s not a new idea; it’s a re-use of a concept from one of my nanowrimo projects.)
“The Slow-Motion Apocalypse” is a “day in the life” portrait of an aging wizard who happens to be all that’s standing in the way of a nuclear blast obliterating part of Manhattan.
I remember discovering (or perhaps re-discovering) The Paper Bag Princess in my twenties. As a young man who had heard a million fairy tales with the “and then they got married” happily-ever-after ending, it was a very different ending than I was expecting: the princess doesn’t marry the prince, not even after rescuing him from the dragon.
It was a different kind of ending, but still a happy ending. Maybe not so happy for the prince, but then he did nothing to earn a happy ending. It subverted the trope and made a new, better thing from it.
So go: subvert the expectations. Subvert all the expectations. Make it better.
Header image: Maman, across the street from Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, in Ottawa.