I’m continuing to make steady progress with my 14-month plan for my short fiction collection. I wrote two stories this month, exactly my target for January, and now I only have two stories left to write by the end of February!
Something shifted in my writing this month. I’ve heard other writers say how their characters ‘surprise’ them. They’ll start to write a scene and then their characters take them somewhere they didn’t expect. That has happened to me sometimes, but I’ve never been utterly in awe at where the story has gone.
That changed this month. Both stories surprised me. Truly surprised me.
The first story I wrote this month takes place during a historic snowstorm in upstate New York. Funny enough, I started writing it when our little town here in North Carolina got 10″ of snow–not common for our area! While the real snow was a unexpected, the characters held the surprise.
The story is about a boy who gets bullied. I intended to end the story with him realizing and accepting different ‘types’ of people, and how these tendencies may never go away, even when the bullies become adults. But then one of those character-took-the-wheel-moments occurred and I went for a ride that brought him to rescue an animal from being slaughtered by the two kids who tormented him. This changed how he treated the bullies, and ended the story on a darker note than I expected.
The other story takes place at an mental hospital. My original intention–explicitly written in my story outline!–was to surprise the reader by making them think the main character was in a standard hospital, then later realize she’s in an asylum. However, since I love writing strong first lines for stories, I started the story with:
The greenhouse is the only warm place Ida has found at the asylum.
Boom. There went my original intentions. Another surprise in this story was the appearance of an unintended secondary character. She has a very strange diet. I’ll leave that surprise for you to learn when you read the story some day.