The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'?  
It came to me in a dream:  short stories are like scallops!  Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did,  but on this occasion  I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime.  At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.

A short story should also be small and perfectly formed:  it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art.  As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story.  But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...

Monday, 19 April 2010

Pillars and Bricks

I don't know what compels me, but I always make the mistake of reading my first draft to my fella, which invariably he loves.  But then I blow it later by reading him the latest draft, which invariably he hates and - for someone so easy going - he gets quite cross.

This happened again on Sunday over a very late lunch at Lori's Diner.  After some heated exchanges and much emphatic waving of french fries, he cooled down enough to explain his frustration rationally.  

His analysis was this:  the 'creative dump' of my first draft produces a story with solid pillars but some unrefined brickwork.  In subsequent drafts, instead of tinkering with the bricks, I tear down everything and start again. What I end up with is a technically well-constructed facade that masks what has ultimately become a flimsy story.  Somehow, in the crafting process, I destroyed the interior strength that existed in the initial rendering of the story.

The story that prompted this outburst is Guinea Pig.  Swallowing my pride and admitting he was right,  I went back to rediscover what it was that drove the story in the first place and in doing so realised the subject matter had darkened with each draft.  It's not supposed to be a pleasant story but it had become too dark and the theme of acceptable cruelty was too hard to see.  So I knocked out a lot of bricks and voila!   Restoration complete.  And, like all good restorations, its true to the original but greatly improved.

I just hope it stands up to scrutiny from his Lordship...

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