Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Fiction is hard when you're an Assistant Editor

My third week of school has come and gone, and I hate to say it, but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I'm scoffing at myself for being such a weenie when on paper I'm just taking one class and have just a 4-hour obligation as Assistant Editor, but these things take a lot more time than that.

Firstly, my class is one that works in mysterious ways. I say I have homework, but it's not really homework, it's just writing. I have to do a lot of writing in order for this class to work the way it ought, and that part is as it always is-- difficult. I have some things I can send out, but I wanna send out my best, and right now I don't feel I have that yet.

I have one story I feels is ready, and it got a good response when I posted it up on a forum, but there were some glitches with it that got a mix of responses. No one denied it was good, but I can't decide if what I made my characters do really is hard to believe like some readers said it was, or if the readers who raised concerns are just forgetting that little thing called "suspension of reality".

Being that my story is not science fiction, or fantasy, I suppose some readers take it as just plain fiction based on what might happen in real life. And this is what gets me . . . I, for the longest time was absolutely terrified of writing fiction, because of this exact thing-- writing something unbelievable.

I've voiced this concern to several people in the past. They all waved the hand without the drink in it dismissively, telling me that that's the beauty of fiction; that you can do anything with it.

After giving it a lot of thought, I began to write fiction. I liked it. I felt so free, and I want nothing more than to continue with it. What I found after a few stories, however, is that fiction is very tricky. Now, I've read all kinds of it that rang true to the essence of life (which is what fiction is) but not necessarily true to what might really happen.

My story is a crime thriller on the surface, but if you just lift that layer a teeny tad bit, it's a little deeper than that. It deals with a woman who is very naive. So naive that she has gotten herself into a pickle she thinks she can get out of just by saying she wants out, but ends up having that idea blown out of her head-- literally.

Sounds gory, but it's not.

It's a dialogue-driven story of said woman, and this stranger she meets in the subway.

Some people liked it . . .

"Having lived in New York and been a frequent subway traveler, my observations on this would be ... it isn't odd for him to light her cigarette ... (especially in NY smile) for all kinds of reasons. But I really like her! she is a naive, but yet hip to a few things."

While others, er, not so much . . .

"While I love the ending, I guess I struggle to believe that someone who is frustrated with all the people following her, is going to walk through an alley with a complete stranger (might be my midwest thinking as opposed to a place like New York)".

I have a feeling that the person who struggled to believe that a naive-- naive being a keyword-- woman would be wooed by a handsome gentleman in a tailored suit right after breaking up with what sounds like a thug through her dialogue is missing the point of my story. Again, there is a handsome stranger in a tailored suit, behaving like a gentleman toward a woman who demonstrates a certain quality of, shall we say, evident bad judgement, happens to have just broken up with her thuggish boyfriend on a cell phone . . . in a subway. Had I described a scruffy-looking guy in torn clothes and a full-grown beard approaching this woman, it would be a different issue.

But I've watched people interact with each other in all kinds of settings. Complete strangers talk to each other, and I hear them give each other too much information all the time. All these people are well-dressed and look like soccer moms, and corporate CEO's, but who knows what lurks beneath? It's just how some people are-- they're naive and will talk to anyone who doesn't look like a scruffy weirdo. New York City, Denver, Omaha . . . people are people everywhere you go, and there're always going to be those who are naive, and those who are evil to take advantage of that naivete.

Think about it-- if there weren't such people in this world, we wouldn't have so many disappearances and murders on the news. Moreover, the evening news is proof that such things as women trusting complete handsome strangers can and DO happen.

In the end, I don't wanna be too stubborn and shoot myself in the foot by ignoring people's feedback, but I also don't know these critiquers well enough to know whether they're qualified or not. Ted's review page isn't the same as The New York Times review page, and that's where things become a little fuzzy and difficult to figure out in this situation. I must give this much thought and act soon so I can get moving on submissions, though. I just wish it wasn't so difficult.

The newspaper is also a lot of hard work. I spend a lot of time sending out emails, and reading emails I receive from multiple people. Story ideas, tracking, updating, and keeping everyone in the loop is a lot of work. UH-LOT. And it's my job. On top of all that, I have to write two opinion columns by next Thursday, which is all fine and dandy, but I also have to write for my class, remember? AAAAAAA! It's insanity in my brain right now, but it's all good.

Despite everything I love keeping this busy. It's when I get the most things done, and have the most energy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm gonna fall over from exhaustion.

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