Originally it was going to be a statement by the narrator, and the approach would have been not entirely unlike "My Last Day Alive," where he's speaking from experience but the actual gunshot doesn't happen until the end. And I had planned to have an elaborate Ocean's Elevenesque setup in which the narrator and his crew plan a heist but, during the course of the story, it becomes clear that the plan is doomed. The story would end right before the bullet to the chest, on the last action that the narrator takes when the outcome becomes inevitable, ending on a seemingly innocuous line like, "I opened the door." (This version of the story, I guess, would not have had that pretentious present-tense narration.)
I still think that idea, properly executed, would have made a cool story, but I realized I am unable to concoct an elaborate Ocean's Elevenesque setup, at least not in three weeks. A bunch of other things also happened to derail my orignal plan:
- The initial line attached itself to this other character, a grizzled, cigar-smoking veteran of something or other, talking to a narrator who ended up being more naive.
- I read a lot of Amy Hempel, whose style is not only almost completely unsuited for hard-boiled crime, but which I also failed to recreate -- this last didn't stop me from blaming her influence for making Hunter perhaps the least convincing male narrator I've ever written (although by the time I submitted I think it wasn't as bad as it was at one stage).
- I went to a casino and was gripped by this arrogant anthropological impulse to record my impressions of that experience, which became a good portion of the setup for the story I did write. Unfortunately I'm a very boring person and thus my casino experience is a lot less thrilling than you see in the movies.
It sort of half-works, but it's also sort of over-engineered while missing crucial pieces. The character relationships and motivations are somewhat fuzzy-to-non-existent (why the hell does he even visit this guy, anyway?) I did kind of enjoy working on it, though, playing with a slightly different narrative voice, avoiding killing any characters, yet ultimately straying back to my usual domain with a love story (only in this case also skipping most of the love).
Well, at least maybe I can mix up the way I do postmortems, and respond to the reviews:
2 plus 3 equals 5 wrote, I thought this was well done. But I wanted him to screw her, to have him drop her off for the crime, and drive away, leaving her for the cops. Thanks for liking the protagonist enough that you wanted him not to get screwed. I think. It bothers me too that he's so fatalistic and accepting of what happens. Maybe it's all a metaphor for how I always write the same story. I keep thinking I could do something different if I wanted to, but maybe it only looks like a choice.As for my own review: Hunter would have made a mediocre journalist; the story has the Who, When, and Where but is missing a lot of What, How, and Why. I can't decide if it's a clever subversion of the crime genre or, er, the other thing. This is probably one of those cases where the overanalysis of my own piece gave away that I was the author. I should probably have stuck with something generic like, "Well, someone had to be the first to submit a story."
Scrymarch quoted, Spring is under construction. That's my favorite line, and I think it almost justifies having written that story to wrap around it.
ana commented, Interesting situation, interesting setup. Not quite sure who all the characters are, notably the woman in the hotel room. It was a calculated gap that I left between one Wednesday and the next, counting on leaving enough clues elsewhere to fill it in. I guess I miscalculated.
fleece added, the rhythm was good it flowed well and that matters above all else, to me. This comment from fleece and one from blixco, another a master of rhythm, makes me feel better for having written archetypes instead of actual characters in my story.
I WAS GOING TO give a WFC Book update here, but due to the following section this diary became far too long; I'll just say that comments are still welcome for at least the rest of the month, and I'll post a separate diary about this soon.
SO, ELSEWHERE, CRWM posed the question, WFC: is it alive and well or should it be allowed to die with dignity?*
CRwM is kind enough not to litter other people's diaries with lengthy responses to the issues raised therein, so I feel I should return the favor, and litter my own diary with my unstructured thoughts instead. My first inclination is to say Neither of the above -- the WFC is ailing but don't put it to sleep yet. However, I don't know that I have any definitive ideas about how to nurse it back to health.
That's not to say I don't have a lot of non-definitive ideas. This is a typical piece of Kellnerinian over-obsession, so skip over this or look for the summary at the end.
It's funny to me in a way because everyone on this site writes. That's how we interact with each other, how we know each other. Sure, writing diaries and comments isn't like throwing a piece of your work into a ring to be judged and dissected. We all approach writing here in a different way and so we have at least as many views on what the WFC is good for (if, indeed, it's good for anything).
In the early rounds we had lots of new blood, and the first three WFCs were won by first-time entrants. Lately it seems like the trend has been toward submissions by the usual suspects. I like much of the work that the usual suspects produce, but new blood is a good thing. It keeps things fresh and besides, when you only have regulars participating and several of those regulars don't submit for one reason or another -- lack of time, lack of inspiration, anvils from the sky -- you only get six entries. So, I'm interested in the reasons why people are inspired to participate in one WFC but not to repeat the experience. Here are a few theories that I'm not sure how much I believe:
- It's somehow inherent in the nature of the challenge -- we've gone through everyone who would ever have considered doing a WFC and we've sorted out the people who are "into it" and those who aren't.
- People are more theme-sensitive for the most part rather than being up for writing anything for the sake of writing.
- People who Take Writing Seriously have come to dominate the WFC, both writers and voters, and that makes the atmosphere less friendly for the casual writer.
- The fact that it is a competition (however low the stakes) creates an unfriendly atmosphere, because no one wants to be a loser.
- The multi-select convention makes the competition aspect worse. With non-multi polls, everyone gets fewer votes overall, but they mean more, and not getting a vote means less. It's pretty humbling to think that you couldn't inspire more than one or two people to click your check box, but easier to justify to yourself if readers have one and only one vote to spend.
- The poll doesn't matter, but the reviews can be a real turn-off.
The need to say something about every piece also leads us away from what our mothers taught us about what to do if you can't say anything nice. While I hardly ever made anyone's short list when they picked only a few stories to comment on, I think that the overall vibe during the voting was more positive when we had a mix of people who reviewed all stories and those who only commented on the ones that moved them. In the future, I'm going to stop reviewing every story in the voting story and stop trying to be so damn clever in my voting reviews. If people want to write diaries about their stories afterwards, I can comment then.
I have to admit I sorta stressed about this most recent WFC. I mean, an epiphany didn't hit me at 2 a.m. out of some serendipitous lightning bolt, it struck because I was lying awake churning this stuff over in my mind, trying to make it work. That isn't really anyone's fault but mine (and my mind was spinning with things other than the WFC at the same time), though if the deadline had not been so tight I probably would have had a more relaxed attitude about it.
Weirdly (or not), the last couple of WFCs I've enjoyed working on the pieces where I contributed to a story in a last-minute rush, as a lark, more than the one that I slaved on to get just right (or right enough to submit). Maybe I like the results because they're not bad for something dashed off in half an hour, not because they're better than the story I spent more time on. Or, maybe the story I spent time on isn't as good because I polished all the rough edges on it, when a story should have at least a few sharp corners.
There are frustrations with collaborating, of course (you have only so much control over how it turns out) and with doing things at the last-minute (you can't really go back and fix the problems in your initial spew). But there are advantages too (you have only so much control over how it turns out, and you can't really go back and fix the problems in your initial spew) that may tip the scale toward having "fun" compared to "working" on a story.
Anyway, to sum up:
- Don't take it so damn seriously (she says at the end of a 2000-word diary)
- Less pressure = more fun
- Jerkitude = less fun
* ana and others have echoed this too, but CRwM's was the first I saw, so I'm going to take his formulation.
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