Had an Exciting Epiphany This Week

AS A PART OF HIS ongoing serieses(es-es-es) on the new publishing paradigm…


New rule. Not allowed to talk about “new paradigms”. ‘Kay?

You’re grounded!

Yup. Still. Gonna put me on double-secret groundation?

Do. Not. Tempt. Me.

Ooooo! I’m SO scared!

Yeah. I see you knocking in your boots. Er … I mean.

Yeah. We know what you mean.

ANY. Way.

In his ongoing serieses on the new ways of publishing, Dean Wesley Smith this week posted some interesting word problems on short fiction.

Which started me thinking.

Now, for the longest time — like… something on the order of forty years — I’ve been struggling to write short fiction. I just haven’t met too much success at it. (Where “too much” is defined as “any”.) And, I suspect, part of my problem is my inability to limit my story ideas. They all just … grow. Like… Sunflowers. You know: throw a few seeds in some dirt and in what seems like no time there’s this Fellini-looking six-foot scarecrow with a moon face and yellow clown hair standing in your garden. ‘Way too big. Sort of like that metaphor got out of hand real fast, there.

But I got to thinking about having to just bite the bullet and develop some short stuff by brute force. You know, just apply cheeks to chair and start monotyping. (That’s NOT stereotyping. Ya folla?)

And something occurred to me. I have a lot of story fragments lying around that, with a little thought and finger development could be turned into story. For example, the bit about GFE1’s Choosing. As a narrative object, it was meant to get Dolly’s karmic predecessor from point A to point B and exposit a little about the customs surrounding the selection of the Child of the East. There’s very little dramatic tension in it. The characters are only sketched. Which is because, as originally written, I was only interested in GFE1 and Hephaestus.

But what ABOUT her mother? What about Em, her father, William Makepeace East? What does her mother feel about losing her youngest daughter to this ancient custom? Why does Em so vehemently reject his family? What do young Gabrielle’s siblings think of it all? What does the whole family go through in the period of time the God is in their home, come to fetch little eight-year-old Gabrielle Francesca?

And, it occurs to me, that another fragment that was either a part of Odalisque, or perhaps A Dynasty Divine, when the 33-year-old young woman comes home to the family’s Ohio farm in 1863, after a quarter-century’s absence, to find a graveyard full of her brothers and sisters and an empty house, and starts the next phase of her life, how that can be drawn together with the earlier episode to make a poignant whole.

And how, while it in no way can support a novel, I bet it can be spun out in less than, say, 15,000 words. A reasonable short eBook. Eh?

And it occurs to me that the full story of Odalisque is another like that. GFE leaves Athens during the Crimean War, a little out of sorts because she’s had to leave her lesbian lover behind, bedridden with influenza. At Galipoli, she meets a dashing young officer in the East Indian Army — one Captain Richard Francis Burton. He has been seconded to a cavalry unit and is in the process of rounding up horses to relieve the Ottoman garrison at Kars, which was beset by the Russians at the time. She gets separated from the crew of her sloop, The Bella Donna, is captured and enslaved in the Seraglio. (She would not have joined the Sultan’s harem, as it would be an unusual ferengi female who’d be welcome there, but would have been pressed into duty as a serving girl — a menial enough role for a lifetime of servitude.) In attempting to escape, she is sentence to summary execution — according to the custom of the day — to be taken in a sack by rowboat onto the Sea of Marmara and thrown into the water…

Where the dashing captain rescues her. He sets her on dry ground and sadly confesses he must remain faithful to his wife. Since she (Gabrielle) is a white woman, it would be too much like cheating for Burton to…

Think it could be made interesting and yet kept under, say, 20,000 words? (The current draft, which gets GFE to Galipoli, is 9,000 words.)

Of course, I have to finish It’s Dolly’s Birthday first. But here’s an interesting incentive. Finish your homework and you can play with the new toys.

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