The CuriousPages Sketchbook

Writing: The Price to Pay

When the idea behind this story came to me and I started to sketch it out, I then stopped and put it aside. The images in my mind of the climax of the story made me feel sick; I thought that the story was just too disturbing for me to write. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to read it. I closed the file and left it.

Then, over the space of a couple of weeks, I kept thinking about the story, working out ways to make its ending seem acceptable. To do this, I had to weave the shocking climax into the themes of the story and pepper the story throughout with references to these themes: overspending and the various flavours of payback. Also, I felt it was important to start the story humorously and with a very sympathetic character, to draw the reader in (to sugar the pill, as it were), and as the story progressed, it would then gradually lower the reader down into the dark ending scenes. When I read back the final version, I was pleased with it; I think it all worked, and, even though it was still perhaps shocking, it did not seem as shocking as those images of the final scenes had seemed when they had first appeared in my mind.

Economy and a more pregnant prose style

Following some feedback that I had had from two magazines about two of my other short stories, I realized that the editors seemed to be looking for more economy in the writing, and also, perhaps, a more dense, more ‘pregnant’ prose style. (These were my impressions from their feedback. I might be wrong. It is always difficult to work out the impressions of reviewers based on the short comments they make. A great deal of guesswork is involved. Usually, the only meaning you can glean from their feedback is that they didn’t like some aspect of the work, and it is then up to you to work out in what way they didn’t like it.)

So, this story is written with greater economy and with a much more pregnant prose style then my other recent stories, so much so that it tends towards poetry in places, it seems to me. But if that’s what people want, that’s what I’ll give ‘em. But not only that, I did find the story stimulating to write. So, expect more of the same from my next few stories.

Also, other factors had influenced the prose style that I was previously used to using. I had been used to writing a lot of non-fiction, where clarity of meaning is all that counts, and, generally, any of the poetic elements that are used in fiction prose would be out of place, so the prose style that I was using in my fiction was heavily influenced by this. On top of this, a long time ago, when I was writing The Tragedy of a Town called Nowhere, my last completed novel, I had decided, for some reason, that I wanted to remove the personality of the narrator from the prose, which I did, almost entirely. I think, at the time, I didn’t really like myself, so I felt that it was not appropriate that my personality should be expressed in my fiction. Or something along these lines. But now, I don’t mind myself at all. And as part of my new direction in my fiction, I’ve decided to reintroduce the personality of the narrator into my prose. This is the other big difference, I think, that is evident in The Price to Pay.

While writing the work, I rediscovered my love of writing. Putting back these elements has reminded me of the joy of writing that I experienced in the most enthusiastic phases of my writing apprenticeship. Yum, yum; let me get started on the next story…


Read the story here.


10 October 2008



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