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Day Forty-Seven: Storytelling in threes

Day Forty-Seven was a Friday. A story has been bugging me for a while – as if it were written somewhere at the back of my head – but I have been putting off writing it. I think I was putting it off because I was frightened of the subject matter. It’s more specific than this, but essentially it’s about dying.

Having a deadline helped, because I really needed an all day writing binge to get this story out. I wrote it all day today, in stream of consciousness, then edited and redrafted it three times. My wife edited it once too. It felt as if I was writing down the pictures I had inside my head. Relinquishing conscious responsibility (as it were) for the direction of the story helped a lot with the subject matter.

I also realised as I was writing that I wanted to give the main character a positive death and to push the story beyond the point of his dying, which was almost too sad to bear. It helped to divide the story into three. This is something I have been doing with shorter short stories recently – roughly dividing the word count I’m aiming at so that I end up with three sections.

Even without paying attention to the number of words, I like this approach as a loose guide to where I want the character to go. In the case of my main character in today’s story I gave him a story before his death, as he was dying, and after his death – the three sections enabled me to do this.

Writing and baking have plenty of stuff in common. Getting the ingredients right, for instance, and the fact that it’s a process, that there’s trust and optimism involved. Maybe I’m stretching the cake metaphor too much here – forgive me – but sometimes you have to know that all of those things are there in the background and let your fingers get on and do it, as if you’re rubbing in a scone mix the old fashioned way.

The final section wasn’t one I had imagined before – I had only got up to his death because it felt like an ending, but thinking of the final part as 500 – 600 words meant that I had to push past that, which was productive for me. It’s been a difficult week in other ways so it was cathartic to write a story in a day, a luxury I have almost never been ‘allowed’ – or allowed myself. Writing achievements-wise I’ve finished the scene-by-scene plan for the novel and finished a story and that in itself turned a difficult week into a good week.

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