Thursday, 26 April 2012

How I Devised a Short Story

For those of you who love Science Fiction and Fantasy I'd like to tell you about Happiness Guaranteed and how I devised this short story.

I woke one morning, determined to write something. While still in bed, stalling to get up, contemplating how one must  never open a story with the main character waking up, or with the weather, I did both.

First line: Bianca’s bed swayed in gentle rhythm with her floating condominium.

and, I let the sun stream in. Why is it we reinforce the don'ts we hear about rather than the do's?

'Write what you know' is a 'do' so I focused on that. The Formula 1 GP was an obsession of mine at the time. I knew about F1. This, coupled with a paragraph I'd picked up in a science article about an 'ancestral memory gene' excited my imagination.

Since my previous story had a young man as its main character, I wanted to write this story from a woman's pov, and I wanted her to have an idealic life. I can't remember, but someone's birthday must have been on my mind because I needed to give my heroine a birthday present and, to me, 'happiness' seemed like the best one at the time.  Of course, I had to figure out a conflict, give her a problem because 'problem' is the backbone of all stories, and the need to overcome that problem would provide her with a realistic goal.

This character directed the a point. She was a beautiful brunette and her husband was a handsome blond.  However, she was already content in her ideal world, so really didn't need 'happiness' for a gift. How could I switch things around to give the story some oomph?

Ah, simple!
Swap their appearances.

She became the blonde, Bianca, and he became Derek with the swarthy good looks. And, if Bianca was to receive the gift of happiness then she'd need to lack contentment.

Blonde v. Brunette, Innocence v. Experience.  NaivetĂ© v. Worldliness. Happiness v. Discontentment. This  led me to think of other opposites -- Guilt and Suspicion v. Trust, Honesty V. Deceit. Old Ways v. New, Us and Them, Perfection v. Imperfection.

Bianca couldn't be perfect in her ideal world.  She needed a flaw.  In fact she'd need a life threatening flaw.

Then Bianca and Derek's sweet romance became quite scary and much more exciting to write. :)

In one way or another, I used all of those opposites as well as my passion for speed and F1 Ferraris. I reseached that memory gene and settled on a futuristic setting, mainly because I belonged to a science fiction critique group.

In that group, a critiquer told me my story broke all the rules of writing, but it had something he couldn't put his finger on and suggested I send it to a new print magazine he'd just come across, in Australia,
the  Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.  So I did.  I called it Bianca's Birthday Present.

My manuscript went through three stages of assessment and I was notified each time I reached the next level. Naturally I was thrilled when ASIM accepted  Bianca's Birthday Present, for their 5th issue.  I expected to be directed to fix those 'broken rules', but the editor asked me to change one phrase, only. 

Years later, when the magazine allowed me my rights back, I submitted the story to MuseItUp as Happiness Guaranteed. It was accepted on the proviso I should work with my editors Anne Duguid and Nancy Bell , to 'flesh it out'. This I did and had a lot of fun revising my much loved story. It has increased by 1,000 words and now has a more obviously ambiguous ending.  :)

I wish my grandfathers were here to read it.

cover designer: Tiger Matthews

Happiness Guaranteed  (5,325 words)  is available from the MuseItUp Bookstore ;  Amazon Kindle

 My website My Imagination - Here you can read the book blurb and an excerpt.


Edith Parzefall said...

Hi Wendy,

A really fascinating glimpse into a story's evolution and a writer's struggle. I love Happiness Guaranteed! It simply calls for continuation. :-)


Rosalie Skinner said...

Hi Wendy,
Wow, I loved Happiness Guaranteed but now I am fascinated how it came together. It is interesting to see how you work your magic.
Thanks for sharing... your approach has given me some ideas jumpstarting my WIP.

Wendy said...

Thank you for visiting, you two. I can always depend on your support. You can't imagine how how much you mean to me.

Lin said...

I am a Wendy Laharnar fan, so of course how odd is it I write pretty much the same way?

In one of my stories I am polishing for subbing, it would be impoissible not to open with her getting out of bed, since the first conflict my heroine must confront is a recurring dream that promises heaven, but once awake only promises aching torment.

I am also drawn to your work because of the brilliance of your covers. You have Unhewn Stone, and Happiness Guaranteed, two very powerful covers.

I happen to know the covers we are given here at Muse are dedicated to the stories we, the authors create, so I am eager to read your works.

Edith, thank you for your comment because it verifies my belief in Happiness Guaranteed, you too Rosalie.

Wendy WELL DONE and thank you so much for letting us know how you weave your creativity.

Wendy said...

Hi Lin,
I guess it would be impossible not to begin with your heroine walking up, unless your story starts inside the dream and then she wakes up.

I agree, the attention given to our covers by the MuseItUp Cover Designers is superb.

Thank you for stopping by, Lin. :)

Annie said...

Loved the insight into the writing process. Super that Happiness Guaranteed is doing so well and attracting lots of fans.
I hope more and more of them find their way to this article. An excellent peephole into the craft of short story writing.