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The Unexpected Story

The other day, I wrote a story that turned into something I didn’t expect. At all. In it, a formally dead woman wakes up in a graveyard, has a talk with a few crows, and gets a little bit of revenge. There’s more, but that’s the gist.

I’m editing it right now, with my lilac colored pen. And I realized something: I can’t leave humor out of my writing. I’m a wisecracker. I’m of the Buffy Bunch. I wanted to be one of the Scooby gang, damn it. So, I quip. I mock. I put characters in slightly crazy positions, because it’s funny. Except, I didn’t mean to write this story in this way. It works. I think.

It’s totally outside my realm of normal. A few bits required research. I added Old Norse. I then had flashbacks of an undergrad class where I had to read out loud in Old English. If anything in my college career made me want to cry, it was that class. Old English might as well be greek with a bit of nonsense thrown in. I am really bad at phonetics, too, which did not help me.

But my point…I like it when characters surprise me. I like humor, when and where it will work. That’s pretty much my approach for life, so it makes sense that it’d seep into my writing.

For years, I resented short stories. Most of the ones I had to read in school boredย me. I would breeze through them as quickly as possible, and pray for that unit to pass as quickly as it could. Gradually, as recently as a few years ago, I came around. I found short stories that absolutely amazed me. In short, I got over it. And I started writing them with regularity. (I’d written a few, but they were–if I’m being honest–horrible. They should’ve never seen the light of day, let alone the poor editor at a press who I tortured with it. Who, by the way, was kind enough to write back with a personal note.)

I have a slight phobia with the short stories I write. I do not yet feel totally comfortable writing them. I always harbor a fear that it’s not done. That the ending sucks. Or that I have no business writing them. I started out writing poetry. I’m more comfortable with that. But I feel like I’ve learned so much — and that I’ve improved.

Stories often surprise you. Characters, too. They should. To me, if something unexpected occurred, the story is organic. I believe that instinct should lead, not some pre-planned piece of plot. What I believe in the most, though, is that it’s necessary to push yourself. Don’t limit yourself to writing only one thing, even in terms of genre. You learn by trying, by doing. You learn by surprising yourself with the unexpected story.

  1. January 27, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Ha. I do like that you can’t resist humor here and there; it’s just a part of your personality. I think that’s a good thing, although yes, every so often it’s tough when one realizes they are making jokes and wordplays without realizing it!

    O. Henry’s short stories helped me get through a school year when I was being bullied. I think what I love about the short story is that you have to get involved quickly, and the twist at the end entertains me. I just wish I was a better writer of them myself, but I do like to read them!

    • Ali
      January 31, 2011 at 8:05 am

      I had to take a few things out, actually — because I was being *too* sarcastic. It took the reader right out of the story. Sometimes, I forget that I’m not Buffy Summers when writing these things. *grin*

      I still have to read that short story you suggested. I have it bookmarked. I will get too it, soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. January 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Greek, you said? I’m taking Greek next semester (and possibly the three following that). Let’s hope it’s not all nonsense.

    News writing is my challenge right now. Our student newspaper is my best chance for experience right now, so I’m trying to take articles even when I don’t want them, because I know I need the help to improve. Besides, it pays ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Ali
      January 31, 2011 at 8:03 am

      Greek AND nonsense — not just Greek alone. *grin* What made you choose that for a language? That is really neat. I took the easy way out and chose Spanish.

      • February 16, 2011 at 11:33 pm

        It’s actually ancient Greek. I decided that I could do French or German or whatnot in a variety of other places after undergrad, but this may be my only chance to learn Biblical Greek like this. Plus, Biblical Greek (I don’t know much about modern) is very logical, very mathematical, and this suits how my brain works better than Hebrew, which is more poetic. Thus, Greek.

      • Ali
        February 18, 2011 at 9:08 am

        Wow, that is an ambitous undertaking! I have no doubt you are equal to it, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. January 28, 2011 at 9:36 pm

    Does it matter how it came about? It’s good writing – just go with it!

    • Ali
      January 31, 2011 at 8:02 am

      Very true. ๐Ÿ™‚

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