March 4, 2010

Bavarian Road Trip, and Why it Doesn't Work

The last three posts dealt with an excerpt of my work. As I said before: this was not my best stuff, in fact it's probably the worst thing I've written recently. While writing it, I was aware something wasn't right with it. While working on many different projects, this was my least favourite.

The first problem with BVRT is that the story doesn't go anywhere; this might be due it being an anecdotal story. One of the biggest pitfalls in writing from real life is that I get some kind of invisible blocker which makes it hard for me to change fact into fiction. I changed the characters names and descriptions and embellished a few events and details, but in general the story was pretty much the same. Real life is great for inspiration, but one needs to recognise when real life is just not that interesting written down on paper/screen. The story's conclusion ended on a point which was lacklustre, and made it hard to discern to readers if it was a short story, novel excerpt or whatever.

Secondly: there are too many different characters. In real life there were five of us, in the story I combined two characters so was left with four - the ideal number would be three. In a novel it can work having significant cast, but in the context of a short story any more than three characters over-saturates it. From a character perspective, it would have been better to combine the two Russians, taking the dominant traits from each one. Initially, the character of Jens was also two people, but I combined them  because I noticed that five was certainly too much!

Thirdly, it's too long. The ideal length for a short story is around 2000-4000 words, this one clocks in at about 6000+; so it could do with a lot of the details being cut out and such. Short stories are supposed to be tight and compact, where every detail or action should bear some relevance to the plot line. In this case, I could afford to drop a lot.

Also this has no theme. A general theme running through the story would help to give it some structure and point to it  - right now it's about four people who go to Oktoberfest and one guy gets lost. There is no merit to the story.

The truth is, it could be re-written. It would need a heavy re-write: structure the plot in a way that gives a firm conclusion, cut out one character, cut down the irrelevant details, add in a theme and change the title. But, I don't feel passionate about it. I wrote it because I was dry with ideas, so decided if I could make something readable from a stupid anecdote I like to tell at parties. Alas, I think my lack of interest shows. Although I did edit it line by line, trying to structure the best sentences I possibly could, and the actual writing and style in this  - in general, I am happy with. So from that perspective it was a good exercise. I also think the characterisations and descriptions were good, just the plot failed, and no plot pretty much fails the piece.

Anyway, it was also a good example of knowing when to drop something. Most things can be re-written, and in principle I could salvage something good in this. The real question is - do I want to? I know the answer, and the answer is no.

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