So, I have been looking at a couple of story contests while the Alpha readers are spilling red ink on THT. Cool one: SF with a strong element of medicine, health, illness. You can submit TWO stories! Woot–very nice!
I read the contest rules, and they are giving examples of stories that they would like. All the classics. Cyborgs, new drugs, bad vaccines. The gamut. Then it hit me. What if I took one of those examples, inverted the story question, and wrote that? (sorry to be coy, but they’re pretty strict on the judges not knowing the author, so I won’t say what I wrote).
Example: Star Trek’s premise is to visit strange new worlds, boldly go, and such. The inverse of that is ‘what is life like for the technologically hyper-advanced world of Earth? Pretty sure there aren’t oil workers, mechanics, or paper-pushers. So….what do people do all day?’
Wrote the work in about four days, three beta readers gave me feedback, I buffed it to about 300 grit, and sent it in. Now it’s the 24th, and the contest ends on the 29th, and I have found a treasure. From 2007–an unfinished short story left on my hard drive. It’s so old that it isn’t even written in Standard Manuscript Format. So I get to work on it, re-reading what I had written, way back in the dawn of my career. And wouldn’t you know, it can be a great story when I finish it!
Spent last night and this morning thinking about it. I had been dumping text, and re-reading cringe-inducing lines from the old days. The MC is a columnist, and the BSF is a nurse. I hover over these introductions, wondering if I should change them. I decide not to, and move on. I come to a line from the nurse, something like “I could use this my research paper topic.” Wow, that’s got to go. Except, I never really get around to deleting it.
Fast forward to this morning’s commute. I realize that these two characters have exactly the right jobs to solve the medical issue in the story. Even the research paper is the most plausible reason for the nurse to involve herself in the issue. Good thing I hadn’t erased the lines!
Lesson: Don’t be too quick to slash and burn aspects to a partial story. Your brain has been working on that story ever since you abandoned it. Maybe it has a great reveal in the wings for you.