After only seven rejections, my first “finished” short story is published!
I’m happy. It is a huge deal because my struggle is that I never FINISH anything. So this is a big win, people!
Although I don’t think Roundabout Protection started off as much, I like what it turned into. I’ve heard there’s a market for anything not-too-badly-written, and apparently, I’m proof. In 2015 I found out that a local online news site ran an annual Halloween story contest. At the time, I was writing, getting ready for nano, and like so many authors who enjoy writing from prompts, I figured “What The Heck?”
The story could only be 750 words, and the prompt, which had to be included, was more than 150. But the setting resonated immediately, and I thought, well, I’ll just write down what I see in my head.
I submitted the story and won an honorable mention in the publication (but I kinda hated it). It was too short to really go anywhere or do anything. So I started editing. As an exercise. I learned some cool techniques from my writer friends.
“You say, ‘evil’ here. What do you mean, ‘evil?’ Tell me.”
And in the process of dropping myself into the scene,describing it out loud, and thinking about what the evil I imagined looked like, Jo said, “THAT! That’s it! The story needs that!”
I had a compelling setting, a pair of fascinating characters with a clear goal, and a threat to that goal. I floated the story at my writing groups, and the blocking, or movement, gained clarity. I did the exercises all “good” writers do, and asked myself questions to illuminate the problems in the story:
What does your character want? (Completion of the ritual)
What’s stopping him? (Something unexpected)
How do you up the tension? (fail the first try)
Why do we like our Protagonist? (They care about their job, the job is a selfless one, and they know how to do it competently)
What did you promise your reader? (Magic, quirkiness, and a threat to normalcy)
Did you deliver? (Kinda – this is where I think the story is weak)
How is your protagonist changed? (???)
This was the biggie. For a long time, the main character was seemingly unaffected by the experience. Sure it was a challenge, and they overcame…but the story itself ended after the action, on a cliffhanger. I got a nice personal note with my rejection from the editor of Fantasy & Science Fiction that he liked it, but the story felt unfinished. Short stories need to feel “done.” So I had more work to do.
I changed the ending and allowed the experience of the action to change my character…and because I am a bit dark and stormy myself, not for the better.
Please let me know what you think of the story. You can listen to the audio version for free after signing up for my monthly newsletter. You’ll receive a link in your October Edition to listen and see the original 750 word submission. Or, you can purchase a copy of the journal, and support the Salt Lake Pagan Society.