Life became crazy this week. Never a long stretch of time where I could let unhurried thoughts live in the short story world I'm working on. In a place where my characters were, literally and metaphorically, pulled to the side of the road, a strong mental image surfaced.
My hero paced, his boots kicking up the west Texas dust. Song after song played on the radio. An endless night stretched to day. I can picture half a dozen ways my characters passed the time until I could steal fifteen minutes to revisit them. Give them a line of dialogue or an action to hold onto before the long wait began again. As frustrating as it might have been for those two characters living and breathing in my head, it became almost unbearable for me.
Another thing that fascinates me is the detour stories take. Somehow, the structure of plotting and knowing what's on the road ahead frees my creative side to explore the characters and bring emotions riding to the surface. But in the microcosm world of a short story, the entire scope of a project comes into focus, and I realize my stories never really travel the exact route I intended--the end product, an organic materialization of something just beyond my control. It's then I ask myself the hard questions. Would the story have been better the way I'd intended to write it? Or, was the detour inevitable? Does the story exist somewhere within the writer, a completed work waiting to be mined using our writer's tools, thus making it impossible to become anything that what it is when the last punctuation mark is typed?
"Once you're into a story, everything seems to apply--what you overhear on a city bus is exactly what your character would say on the page you're writing. Wherever you go, you meet part of your story. I guess you're tuned in for it, and the right things are sort of magnetized." ~Eudora Welty