One thing that fascinates me is how changing perspective changes a story completely. I was on the subway Friday night, to go meet Charles to go to a microbrew buffet in Kangnam — where a good time was had, by the way! — when I realized what I’d been doing wrong in “Dhuluma No More, My Brothers, and the Rains Will Come Again.” The original story (after the first revisions, following some very useful feedback from friends) was well-suited to being told in the 3rd person, limited omniscient point of view — from somewhere very close to the main character, Illingsford. That’s because the story was all about a reporter’s changing perceptions of a terrorist, and his struggle to make a fair, balanced news report on a desperation-driven terrorist act that was to lead to his own death.
The focus of the story has moved somewhat, for good reasons. Not only has the terrorist act changed significantly: the role of my reporter protagonist (and his central dilemma) changed quite naturally given changes in his relationship to the terrorist leader. That they should have a relationship became necessary when I pared away the unnecessary stuff, such as a Canadian Arctic Coast Guard crew — including a cool French-Canadian captain who was a pun on a character in Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, and all my in-jokes for Canadians who grew up watching “The Beachcombers,” like a first mate named Adonidas.
Another thing I learned is that reporter-characters are tough to make work in an action story. They need to get involved in the action somehow, and against their will is the least interesting way to make it happen. So stakes, it all comes back to stakes and motivations and human needs. But even that didn’t solve the problem.
The fact remained t became clear something else was fundamentally not working, and I’d already figured out it was a kind of off-and-on inactivity, or invisibility on the part of my narrator. I wondered whether the story should instead be focused on the terrorist when finally, it hit me: I realized, reading my story on the way to Kangnam, that it was the POV that wasn’t working. That this had to be in first person, so that my central character, the reporter, would be present throughout, his observations and the filter they passed through being tweaked slowly by his experiences, his decisions mattering as part of the matrix of experience and memories.
So I spent most of yesterday and today rewriting the story in first person. Which, if you’ve never done that before, is not easy. It’s not just a case of changing pronouns. Some things get to stay the same, but anything involving the character or the character’s perception needs to be written anew, which means, most of the story.
But it’s done. It needs a proofread before October 31st, but it’s pretty much done. I also got it down from what I think was about 6,700 words to 5,400 words. The suggested limit for the Mundane SF issue of Interzone is 5,000, but I’m hoping the quality of the story makes the extra 400 words worth it, because there’s no way I can cut any more from it.
The same stories remain in the queue:
- “In Gandhari”/”Alone With Gandhari” (was: “McWar”)
- “The Broken Path” (a.k.a. The Spike, though neither title’s working for me)
- “Egg Hunt”
- “And the Blind, Given Sight”
- A Killing in Burma
However, the only stories I can be sure of tackling in November are the first two, because they involve only some revision, editing, and polishing: the rest will depend on whether I need to find a new job and place to live. Unfortunately, no news has come yet on the subject of contract renewal in the light of the new labour law. I’ll be asking around tomorrow, but who knows if anyone will know anything. Either way, I’ll most likely be spending time on typing up cover letters, and printing letters and resumes, photocopying my diplomas and transcripts, and mailing them out to places. It’s time-consuming, and I’d prefer not to do it if I don’t need to, but I really have to do it, just in case.
Which reminds me, I probably should suppress some categories on the blog too, during my job search. 아?고…