I already told you the story behind the story for New Life at Death Springs and writing a tale about Obadiah Riddle, a traveling prophet created by my friend Stoney Setzer. I liked exploring Riddle's universe and had fun writing that story (posted free for a week a few weeks ago) so thought I'd write another story featuring this character. After chatting with Stoney about some ideas, he told be about a story concept he had called Blood Feud. I thought perfect! So I started writing.
By the end of the first page, though, I realized the traveling preacher who would show up in my story wasn't going to be Obadiah Riddle. The story had a completely different feel than the supernatural "good vs evil" world that Stoney developed. The "Blood Feud" I wrote was about a boy who yearned for two feuding families to make peace. This was his prayer and he thought the traveling preacher, named Ezekiel Freedman, was the answer to that prayer. I also realized something about the boy, named Conner McCurrie, by the end of that first page. But I won't tell you here. If you want to find out, just ask and I'll send the story to you. :)
Couple of interesting remarks about the story from a friend who read it when I first wrote it had me thinking about the role of the main character. What they often teach in composition class is that the MC has to go through some sort of change. That's not true, necessarily, but that's what they teach. When it was pointed out that Conner didn't really change that much in my story, I replied that Conner wasn't the main character. Neither was Freedman, the preacher. The main character was the two feuding families that for the most part stayed off page. That's a hint about the story by the way. ;)
So just a reminder to us readers. Don't read a story based on some paint by numbers expectation of what you think the story should be. Let the story teller tell his or her story. You may not like the story as told, that's fine. But don't force a square peg in a round hole. If the story wants to be a square peg, judge it based on what it's trying to accomplish. Trust the story teller to tell the story he or she wants to tell. If you don't like their style, don't try to correct them, find another story teller. Simple.
Another example. I'm doing a #60DayChallenge where I'm writing 30 stories in Oct/Nov. The person who set this challenge said he'd read and comment on all 30 stories in addition to a few other things. Which is pretty cool, since this person has quite a reputation as a pulp fiction writer. Well, I got the comments back on my first two stories. Now to be fair, he did say he was just one reader and if we didn't like the comments then we should ignore them.
Well, that comment was the only one that made sense. His remarks about my two stories had nothing to do with what I had written. He was reading with an expectation that didn't fit what I was doing in those stories. So his comments were basically worthless to me. Which is fine. He didn't like my stories. So what did I learn? That he's not my audience. Moving on. Of course, I'll still finish my 30 story challenge and send them in for him to read (I just finished #20 so have 10 to go) but I won't bother reading his comments anymore.
Now does that mean I'm a perfect story teller with nothing to learn? Absolutely not. I have tons to learn and I have to practice different aspects of the story so I can get better. And I know that if I want a story accepted by a certain anthology I have to meet their expectations and "write to market." Ha, that's another thing you hear you're not supposed to do - write toward a particular audience or market. That's silly. Of course you can write what people want to read. Might be a good way to sell books. And if a magazine wants 'literary fantasy' then figure that out and get your 6 cents a word.
But there are also times when you write what you want and let it stand. Always learning. Always growing. But never worrying about what others think or say about your stories. (Gave up reading reviews about my stories a long time ago! You should too.) Even when your readers are good friends and/or fairly well known pulp writers. No offense, but after a certain point in one's development as a writer, readers can only judge what works for them. You may think they are judging your work, but really it tells me more about them and their expecations than it does about my writing level.
Sorry if it sounds like I'm venting, lol. Just thinking out loud as I share what I'm learning writing a story every couple of days. Next time I'll talk about the story behind "Surprise Date" (a romance!). You can follow my progress here or check the current projects tab above. And seriously, thanks for reading.