Thursday, January 18, 2007

Writer's Diary #15- First Short Story Attempt

If writers are alchemists trying to make gold from words and phrases, then I guess it's okay to start with lead. Here's my lead: a rough, first draft of a short story I'm writing for Writer's Club. We decided to explore magic for our next meeting, "What is Magic?" While any genre was deemed acceptable, I've decided to forego the poetry this time around. I'm always bringing poems and I want to branch out a little. However, I read a lot more poetry than short stories and I'm afraid that will be more than a little obvious. Rough and amateur as it might be, here it is. Feel free to pick it apart like a boxing day turkey...

+What is magic?
Too fast. He should have thought it through.

-Yeah. See, some people are always looking for magic when really
+Don't do that. Don't lecture me.
-I wasn't going
+Yes, you were. But don't. I appreciate life as much as anyone. But we both know that's a cop out answer.

He could be angry. He could be defensive. Then
He smiled.

-You got me

She smiled.

-So what do you think? What is magic?
+I wish I knew. That's why I asked.

Why did she wish she knew? He'd had no chance to ask. At that moment their waiter approached. Reality always transcended such conversations.

He ordered hot wings. Normally he'd never order those on a first date but this wasn't shaping up to be a typical first date.

>I think magic goes beyond life. It's the mysteries, the unanswered.

Interesting. He had to chew, to mull this over. Then
-So geniuses have no magic in their lives?

This caught her attention.

-If magic means having unanswered questions, those with the answers should have less magic in their lives right? Therefore, geniuses
+Even the smartest person in the world wouldn't come close to having all the answers- she'd still have magic.
-Just less.
+I guess. But. Did you ever read Flowers For Algernon?
+Well. It was about idiot. Charly. He had some sort of surgery that turned him into a genius. At the end he found out that he'd been happier as an idiot.

He took another bite of his steak, glancing over her shoulder at their books. Actually his books and her books. At this point they were still in two identifiable stacks on the shelf. Then
-Are you saying happiness is the same as magic?

+It is, you know.
+Life yes. Especially life. But this feeling, too.
+Extreme happiness.

He peered down into his son's eyes. Turning almost randomly, his pupils stretched to the limits of their circumference. He was trying to focus. Trying to make sense, to define this new world. Then
-I wonder what he'll be like.

She looked down. Who knew this day, this child would come? Then
+That's the missing part.
-Part of what?

But he knew. They would always return to this, eventually.

-I mean, what's the missing part?

They watched him more than they watched the show. He was standing on his chair to get a better view. They'd never let him do that at home. But both knew they couldn't get him down now, even if they wanted.

His eyes were trained on the magician.

The lady was in no real danger. He knew that. That blade hadn't really cut her across the middle.

What he didn't know, what he then vowed to learn was how the trick was pulled off. It was the happiest moment of his life.


Christina said...

Hey John...really neat story. I like how there's no real character definition. I like how you used the passing of time as though it wasn't passing at all (that's more like real life, isn't it? Esp. when you have kids, you realize how quickly time actually passes). There's a lot more to this little story than first meets the eye and I will have to read it a few more times before they sink in, but I really enjoyed the first four or five readings! :)


John Mutford said...

Thanks Christina, that's about how many times I've read it as well! And every time I do I see more that I want to change. Editing a short story it seems is easier than editing a poem. With my poems I'm always reluctant to make changes, but this thing I could change 10 ways til Sunday. I am glad that you you liked the undefined characters and the time passage.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

There is still something very poetic about this, and I don't mean that critically. It's in the spareness of the words; you used no unneccesary words and thus each word had to hold a lot of meaning.

I did get thrown off when he took a bite of his steak, as I thought initially that they were still on their first date and he was having wings. Of course as soon as you mentioned the stacks of books, it became clear.

Great start, I think.

John Mutford said...

Thanks Barbara, The sparseness of words was a little troublesome for me. As I wrote it into the blog from my notebook, I realized I had a lot of sentence fragments. While I did fix up a lot, there are still a lot left in. I do like concentrating the language and I'm not a fan of writers that overcomplicate things. (Part of the reason I liked David Bezmogis' Natasha book).

As for the jarring bite of steak, I'm glad. I wanted a little confusion there. I wanted to link the conversations to the point whereby readers didn't realize at first waht was going on, maybe even think I made a mistake.

I'm not sure about the "Reality transcends..." bit. While I like the line, I'm not sure if it doesn't clash with the simple, concise language of the rest.

John Mutford said...

Edit to the thrird line:

Too fast. He should have thought it through.

changed to

He was too fast, too flippant.

John Mutford said...

New edit...

She looked down. Who knew this day, this child would come? Then
+That's another part. Of the composite.
-Part of what composite?

But he knew. They would always return to this, eventually.

-I mean, what's the missing part?