Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dougie's Hand

My short story, 'Dougie's Hand', has been accepted for the Spring issue of Rose and Thorn by Kathryn Magendie.

The story goes live 15 April 2010.

There are many different ways to go about constructing a story. (I think the only universal method these days has something to do with a word processor...some imagination..and I'm not always sure about the imagination). I still read a great number of 'how to do it', or preferably 'how I do it' writing advice articles. Some authors plot extensively, write notes, draw diagrams of story arcs and character interactions, maps of the place where the story takes place, etc. I did this for GOB-the short story and BEKs (see below)and I have to do it for my novels or it they turn to unintelligible goo in my hands.

Other people just start writing and see where the story takes them. You can try for a certain 'mood' or a 'voice' or just write. In short stories I can get away with this to some extant. But I still need to do some plotting of where I want to go. I have heard the writing of a story like planning for a road trip (an old school road-trip, no Garmins or Tom-Toms allowed here). You know where you will start, you've looked at the map, made some notes of where you want to go, but you reserve the right to deviate a bit if you see a Shoney's or a sign for one of those road-side museums (some of the best are along I10- the prehistoric alien in Arizona, the alligator farms in Louisiana, the Crocket county museum in Ozona Texas...ah, memories!). But every once in a while even OC road-trip planners like me just get in the car and see where they go. That was Dougie's hand for me.

I started with a voice. I knew what the main character sounded like. He was a millenial slacker in college. He was self-deluded and superficial. And he was FUN. So with that premise, I started typing away.

Dougie's hand is a story, really a 2200 word vignette, of a young man suffering from Anarchic or Alien hand syndrome (also called Dr. Strangelove hand). This is the conflict, because without conflict for the main character to overcome or deal with there's nothing happening in the story. Stories without conflict are usually called 'literary fiction'. Sounds great, but what was the point again?

After voice and conflict There was also a quality that I wanted the story to have, and this came in the rewrite, because even though I just got in and drove doesn't mean that I couldn't go back over and over and over...

So, the quality I wanted was one in which the narrator was so convicted in his obviously erroneous belief that the reader took a minute to doubt his/her own convictions. It's hard to explain exactly what I wanted, but the best example is from the movie
. Maybe not your cup of tea, but I loved it. In it there are a few instances where Gabriel Finch is so convicted, and there is evidence to support his delusion, that the audience asks...could it be that he isn't a nut?

Well, you judge for yourself on 15 April how well I did to capture this with Dougie's Hand.

The story itself was a joy to write. My critique group provided valuable feedback. I submitted it and it sat in second and then third and then fourth round review with first ASIM (Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine) for a year. Then it was bought by Arkham Tales, where it waited to be published until the magazine folded. And then...Rose and Thorn had at it.

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