Saturday, April 13, 2013

Unintended Consequences

I recently let go of a story that I had been holding back for over a year. It was edited by Liane and I think that was late in 2011. I submitted 'The Soup' to the St. Somewhere Journal and it was published in their April 2013 issue.

(Note, this is NOT a children's story.)

I don't recall what prompted me to write on this particular topic. This is unusual for me because I usually recall the passing word or image that planted the first seed of a story in my mind. I do know that the ending was never in doubt; it was the natural culmination of the chain of events and so it was a genuine surprise that so many readers have seen the ending as a "twist". Was this a failing on my part to use foreshadowing to prepare my readers?

Another response that has surprised me is from two readers who have connected personally with the story and have seen it as a warning of sorts. I wish that I could honestly say that I wrote it with that in mind; that I planned that the story would have an impact on someone, even save their life. The truth is that, while I usually write my children's story with a particular theme in mind, The Soup was just a story that came to my mind and out through my pen without a motive. (Of course, I won't admit that when I eventually accept my Pulitzer Prize ;-). )

Have you written a story and then been surprised at how others have perceived it, or the things they have discovered in it, things that were so well hidden they were invisible even to you?


Julie Luek said...

I write a blog with short, creative nonfiction pieces and love to read the comments. The variety of comments-- whether it has impact or not, and how-- fascinates me. Sometimes people take away meanings, memories, and feelings that I couldn't have anticipated but am delighted they have.

Charles Gramlich said...

Sometimes I have been surprised at what others pick up. Not very often, though. And I pretty much always remember details about where stories come from. Of course, I keep a set of story notes about each story.

Joanne C. Hillhouse said...

Because readers bring their own experiences and expectations to the art, there's bound to be an element of surprise in my view ...and I like that about it. In fact, I did a post (readers say the darndest things) on my blog on this very theme. Check it out if you wish:

Liane Spicer said...

Carol, congratulations on finding a home for The Soup! It's a terrific story.

IMO every good short story has a twist at the end, and yours was eminently credible. The twist only becomes a problem when there's the deus ex machina at work---the author grabs something out of the blue to resolve the story, something that isn't logical and/or not substantiated by anything that went before. That was certainly not the case with The Soup.

I have had readers pick up elements in stories that I never consciously intended. Some have been shockingly accurate once pointed out, and others were just the readers injecting their perspectives onto the work. This happened last year when I went through the workshop experience for the first time.

I have several stories that I need to let go of myself. Thanks for the reminder.

Carol Mitchell said...

Looking forward to seeing those stories out in public, Lianne. Keep us posted.