Friday, April 15, 2011

Show Me a Story


I wrote a short story two years ago.  Looking back on it, it is fair to say that it needed A LOT of work.  But I liked the story idea and decided to return to it.  I also realized that it was not a short story but, at a minimum, a novella.

But it also gives me an opportunity to talk about a major issue I see in many of the things I have read lately.  It is the natural tendency of all new writers, myself included, to tell more than we show. 

Warning the two excerpts below are mine and mine alone. No one lese can take the blame. The second is the first re-write of the original.  I do not promise mind-blowing literature.
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Original Version
Energized by her plan, Nora was the picture of industry.  She opened the shop promptly at nine the next morning and each subsequent morning.  She spent extra time with the regulars who came to offer condolences and support.  She set out fragrant mulled cider and a guest book for customers to enter their contact information, including e-mail address.  Between customers, she cleaned and rearranged inventory, taking digital pictures of attractive pieces; certain a website featuring the store would enhance the value of the business.

Re-write #1     Only 15 more to go!

“I’m surprised you re-opened so soon, dear.”

Nora set the digital camera down beside an ancient looking stone figure and turned to the white haired woman whose shawled shoulders barely cleared the top of the Belleek china display case.  She wracked her brain for the woman’s name, there had been so many at the wake. Bernadette Doyle, originally from a Irish farm in West Meath, that was it,

“Morning, Mrs. Doyle. Can I pour some mulled cider?”

“Just a touch, dear.”  She ensconced herself in the rocker that Aunt Evelyn had kept by the register for certain regulars, like Mrs. Doyle.

“I wanted to thank you again for coming to Aunt Evelyn’s funeral and for all your help with the repast.”  Nora set the fragrant mug of cider on the counter.  She slid the brown leather guest register aside. A wayward spill would smear the few names and email addresses she already collected.

“Ooh, is that one of those digital cameras?  My granddaughter has one.  She wants to e-mail me pictures. Can you imagine?”

Nora had to smile.  For a woman that lived in Tribeca for forty years, Mrs. Doyle still oozed the countryside outside Athlone. “I was taking pictures of some of Aunt Evelyn’s finer pieces to put on the Internet.”

“Your Aunt Evelyn would be proud of what you’ve done with the place already.”  Mrs. Doyle raised the cup to her lips. “The Singing Stone and all its wonders are in good hands.  We’re all glad you’re staying, Nora.”


She turned away from the inquisitive stare of the old woman.  Did Mrs. Doyle suspect what Nora was really planning?

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Okay readers, which scene do you like better?  Trick question, right?  The question is why?  We all know in our gut which one, but putting it into words makes for sharper readers and better writers. I'm not going to tell you. 

So tell us why in the comments below. Perhaps, share your experience with a re-write or something you read that grabbed you or fell flat.