Blast from the Past: Improving a Story to Death

atw80p-v2Hi, everyone.  A text-only version of this article appeared in my GoodReads blog on June 29, 2009.  The lesson on writing with care remains the same today.

The story I referenced is now entitled “Betrayed by a Kiss,” and may be found in my always-free short fiction collection, Around the World in 80 Pages.  Enjoy!


I learned a harsh lesson this month.

I entered one of my favorite short-short stories, “The Judas Kiss,” in two different competitions. It was a strong, intelligent story with a twist, and I was very proud of it. One of the decisions I made when I wrote the story was to deliberately never identify the gender of the protagonist. I thought it was a real strength of the story.

Except I wimped out before I sent it to the two contests.

woman-41201_1280I made the protagonist female, and wrote some additional information about her. In hindsight, this was detrimental to the story’s strength … and “The Judas Kiss” failed to place in either contest.

I think that constructive criticism is invaluable, but as an author I should have just left well enough alone. There is a fine line between art and a mess; a painter needs to know when to lay down the brush. The same things applies to writing, whether short-short, short story, novella or novel. Wield your pen with care.

 

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4 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: Improving a Story to Death

  1. I keep telling people to stop listening to critics. Did you change the gender because somebody suggested it? See today’s post about Neil Young’s reaction to critics. Heh, heh. That’s all you need to know.

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    1. The original story had a first-person narrator but gender was never mentioned. I admit, I made the narrator female in a moment of utter cowardice, because there is a kiss in the story from a male character … and I had fears about what the judges would think if the story were ambiguous.

      In hindsight, I think the judges’ taste was all in their mouths. 😀 The story that won the contest was replete with every cliche you were ever told by your high school English teacher to avoid. The good news was that I made friends with some delightful authors as we all commiserated.

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      1. I was guilty of assuming they’d take it as seriously as I do, LOL. I was a judge in the Global eBook Awards’ historical fiction division for a couple of years, and I not only had subjective comments but also an objective list of things I looked at (editing, character development, etc.). I have subsequently concluded that not everyone applies the same level of diligence that I demanded of myself in that role.

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