As you can tell from my blog, I worked on multiple different ideas to begin with. Perhaps, my greatest struggle in the writing process for this short story was coming up with an idea that I liked enough to keep writing. My problem was that I would begin an idea, like the talisman exercise, but run out of “passion” for it, subsequently ending up with a no more than a page or two and feeling like I had nothing left to say. I realized that I had to just start writing, whatever happened didn’t really matter because I could always go back and change, reword, delete, start over, etc. This led me to just sit down one day and start writing about Kai. I had absolutely no idea where I was taking the story, in a way it kind of took me. But I tried to keep in mind the elements that we had discussed in class. In particular, I was focused on the dialogue because that is something I had little experience with and I thought I would struggle. However, the hardest part ended up being the creation of the characters.
Peer review on the first draft was pretty helpful because I was unsure about the development of the characters and their dialogue. Riley mentioned that adding more detail to Kai would be helpful because the story is mostly about him. I tried to do this by adding small details about his size/hair color, etc., so that the reader would be able to get an idea of what he looks like without explicitly saying it. She also said that she was “curious about I like how it is a mystery. Like how Kai and Pops cannot leave the fenced area, I like how that is a mystery… if you continue to write I am excited to see what happens with [the girl] and Kai and what tension can be built off of it.” This was especially helpful because, similar to what you had also said in out meeting, the relationship between Kai and the girl has the potential to be filled with tension.
I also believe that the best feedback I gave was to Riley, and in a way it was ironic because I had many suggestions that were similar to what she said to me. I found her story to be intriguing, and a good idea but I thought that it was lacking an emotional attachment to her character: “Another suggestion I have is making sure that you are “showing” more than “telling.” There are parts where I think you could really build and develop Lia’s character, especially when talking about past events. This would really let the reader want to follow her throughout the rest of the story as well as make her more dimensional; one way in which this could be done is adding her emotions and actions, even something little that might be a character trait.” I hope this advice was helpful to her because I think that having a character who has characteristics that make them real adds a lot to the story. It also made me think about my characters and if I was “showing” enough of who they are.
Even after the peer review I was still stuck as to where to go with the story; what should happen to Kai? Who is the girl? What’s in the box? I didn’t know how to create the story to have an ending when I was not even sure what the ending was. I struggled with this because it was something we had discussed a lot in class; the idea that a short fiction piece has a beginning, middle and end. It was helpful then, when we met, to have the option of keeping it as a sort of “chapter.” This gave me more freedom to go back and emphasize the climate change/post-some environmental disaster. I tried to make things dry: “It covered most of everything now. The dirt,” in order to emphasis the climate without saying it outright. I hope that I was able to do it in a way that was subtle but also clear to the reader. I also changed Mae to be Kai’s sister because I thought this would give a little more tension and add more to his family life. I also decided to make Kai older. Instead of six he is now thirteen. This was because it was less likely that a 6-year-old would be doing the things Kai ended up doing and it also made the interaction with the girl more enticing.
One element that I think worked well in my story was the idea of the character having a desire. We talked in class about the importance of this as a way to keep the story “moving” and guide the reader through. I tried to make this happen by having Kai contained within the fence. He wants to leave but until now he can’t: “He was getting old now and the inside of the fence was beginning to seem smaller, less exciting. But Pop wouldn’t let him leave.” I was hoping that even when he makes it over, the box the girl gives him and his desire to return because of Mae and Pop create enough tension that the story could continue on, and thus be more like a chapter: “Kai remembered Mae in the house cooking lunch and his stomach dropped a little. Maybe she hadn’t noticed he was gone yet.” This desire to escape, yet also return to what he knows, may be subtler in this “chapter” but I think it is still there enough to keep the story moving.
Overall, I enjoyed the process though it was definitely filled with a lot of time staring at a blank screen. I think that having the ability to view it more as a chapter definitely helped because I felt less pressure to “make it fit” within the relatively short page range. However, this makes me wonder how it would have read had I “finished” it. I could have told the readers more about the girl, who she was, why she was there and I could have added what was inside the box. I think this would be interesting because it would feel more completed and the readers may feel more satisfied; they would have their questions answered. Had I done this, though, I think I would have had to “quicken” the action so that Kai climbs the wall sooner and this way I could have had the page space to elaborate on the box and what was inside. I think, too, this may have given the reader more insight into the setting: the post-climate change world that Kai lives in.