In eighth grade Chris Hanson and I would write short stories about spies exploring Russia or Switzerland or New York City—really any place more mysterious than Milwaukee. Sometimes she illustrated our stories with a beautiful long-haired woman wearing evening dresses. With our best penmanship on lined paper we managed to create a beginning, build tension and bring the story to an end in one page.
Work this week has circled around ending a short story started on a plane returning home from Paris. The first eight pages sing with tension. The main character is called upon to adapt and keep moving forward. Then the pace changes, not once, but twice. With eighteen pages written and forty-eight hours until the piece must be sent to my writing group, the end is still out of sight. It’s hard to know if the main character has run short of energy or if the writer has lost interest in what will happen to this poor woman and her husband trapped on the streets of Paris as a result of some undisclosed global crisis.
On this Friday night Stephanie is under my writer’s microscope. How does she regain her feisty determination or how should the story be rewritten to force her to stay on her little fictional toes? How deeply should I edit to clear out the beautiful images that might distract the reader from Stephanie? I’ve already cut the organ music, the loss of her beautiful red bag, the begging child. Does the dinner scene in the church need to go as well?
If I can’t turn that corner, then these eighteen pages stay stored in the “Short Stories 2012” folder like other ideas that just wouldn’t develop into good writing. Just in case” .here’s one paragraph of Stephanie’s experience as a refugee in Paris:
“We both wear good rubberized European boots with liners that hold warmth and shed moisture. When Jeffrey found them in an abandoned automobile, I knew we had a fighting chance to survive the streets for some time. Jeffrey said after the crisis, we’d walk into this church in broad daylight just to remind ourselves of the time spent crouching by its stone sides as refugees.”