A few days ago I mentioned that I’ve been wanting to work on a web novel, but to get to it would depend on how fast I finish my current project(s). Well, I’m not going to talk about that web novel…But I wanted to talk a little about my current project…
About two…or maybe three…years at this point, I wrote The Page Never Forgets, a short story about a stalker and the power they had over another person’s mind through a journal.
I remember liking that story quite a bit.
A few months after finishing it, I got accepted into a writing program. There, the professor announced that we could submit something up to 50 pages long. I decided to go with this one.
Workshop…did not respond to well. And the teacher? Well let’s say that the teacher and I had our differences when it came to teaching styles, but that’s a story for another time. Long story short, the teacher shred me a new one. But, out of all the different comments, one stuck until this very moment: “The plot overtook the story by page 20.”
I had absolutely no idea what that meant. Hell, I still don’t know what they meant. They weren’t very clear about anything to be honest, but I digress once again. The point is, there was something “off” with the story. Something related to the plot and the story.
Well, fast forward to a week ago. As I looked for a story to revise for this blog, I came across that one. I had liked writing it back then, right? Maybe it would be fun to work on it again to see how much I had improved. And, well, it was a half decent story in my head. What could go wrong?
After reading, taking notes, and working on this story I’ve had a revelation. It’s a mess.
I should explain.
Although I think the teacher lacked a way to say it, I think I know what they wanted to say. I think the problem is that I didn’t build up to the “reveal.” The story read in three parts. In part one, I introduce the MC and how he gets in a relationship. In part two, he realizes something is wrong. And in part three, he confronts the antagonist and it ends.
The story never really explored the characters. The antagonist is only present in a few lines in the beginning, and they come back in the confrontation. So, we never get to see that character or even understand them at all. They’re all flat.
And, that’s just one example.
The other characters are the same. They pop up, do their thing, and disappear. No one really has a story or any development. Borrowing the metaphor from my plot post from the other day, I submitted an empty building to workshop. Sure, the building was cool looking, but there was nothing inside. The characters were nonexistent and that cause a lot of problems for any readers.
I think that’s what that teacher was trying to say. They had an issue with the scenes and the process. It was rushed. A lot of the final events happened as an exposition revelation at the end via dialogue. Sure, I’d hinted a lot, and a detective would have seen those trails. But, trails are not enough. Development is needed.
People aren’t detectives. They’re readers.
It’s interesting to see things so differently over the years. And I hope that when I post this story in the future I can somehow deliver something a lot deeper, a fully furnished building with plenty of humans living and working inside.