Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Uncovering the story beneath

Last night I read the first half of a short story to my writer's group. In this story, there is a relationship that has been destroyed, but the reason for that destruction isn't revealed until the second half of the story. So my listeners had to theorize and make comments without knowing the whole plot. However, they made some very interesting comments about a deeper theme. What made their comments so interesting is that I know what I have already edited out, and much of that material ties into the deeper theme they observed. I now realize that they were able to help me see a deeper story beneath my story, and I do plan to explore that and reveal it.
This is fascinating to me because many writers talk about listening to their characters and allowing their characters to act. I don't really understand how that works yet (do any writers understand it?), but I believe that's what's happening with this story. My readers heard the subtext in that relationship, a subtext I was dimly aware of but edited out for space reasons (I was trying to shorten the story). The best part is that this subtext makes the story much more powerful and coherent.
Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird recommends writer's groups and I heartily second that. Not only has it been a huge boost to my confidence, but I'm discovering hidden treasures thanks to their insights!

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