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In Need of Short Story Help


Grey_Skies
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In trying to work on some various short stories this afternoon, I came across an older one I started last December.  It's technically a Christmas story, and one that I like and think has potential.  I would love to complete it finally.  It's mostly done, with more than half completed, as well as the final scene.  The part I'm struggling with is, of course, the middle.  Once it's finished, I plan on posting it in two or three segments in C&F, but first I need to work out the middle.

 

It's called "Weather or Not" and here's a summary: Katharine Burnside, a rich lady, by no means old, but not so young anymore, is reading in a cozy corner of her city’s huge library one evening, when the snow begins to fall.  Unbeknownst to her, it’s almost closing time, and the librarian, seeing the heavy snowfall, deems it best to lock up early and get out of there.  Assuming everyone has left, she locks up and leaves, and now Katharine is left locked up and snowbound in the abandoned library.  But she is not alone: also trapped in the library is an enigmatic stranger named Bart.  During their long, cold, snowbound night together, Bart teaches Katharine a new way of looking at life, and it’s a lesson Katharine will never forget. 

 

Here's what I need help with: in the middle, Bart and Katharine are having this conversation to get to know each other better, and Bart asks some questions that hit rather hard.  I want Katharine to kind of get angry and defensive, and then realize that he's right and that she's so self-absorbed and ignorant that she can't see straight.  The point of the story is for Bart to show her that the life she's living is selfish and useless, and that she needs to turn it around.  Basically, the middle needs the dramatic character arc, along with some spicing up.  Any ideas?

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7 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

And his questions are???

Bart is not who Katharine thinks he is.  To say more would be spoilers.  Suffice to say that the reader knows there is more to him than meets the eye.  He starts off by asking her how she is spending Christmas this year.  He follows that up with questions about her life, etc. and finally, the clincher: "What's the most important thing in your life?"  Katharine is at a loss as to how to answer him.

 

9 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

How long is the whole story? How much do you need in the middle? It sounds to me that you already have it--you just need to put the words to it.

Right now it's at 2,357 words.  I just really need the character arc with the dramatic change of heart (essential to the Christmas story, y'know) to round it out.  And that's just it: I don't know what to say!

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Have Bart dying from cancer.

 

Have him talk about how he too was self-absorbed, and how seeing death around the corner changed his perspective.  Pour out all of his regrets and failings, and have him tell her how now he has no time to make amends.

 

 

 

 

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Okay, so far the words used to describe Katherine's life are: self-absorbed, ignorant, selfish, and useless. Thing is, these can describe a lot of different kinds of people, 'cuz they can mean a lot of different things.

 

If you haven't yet, work out (& share with us, if you like) some specific details & incidents in her life, in which she has shown these flaws. They may involve friends, family, children, coworkers, missed opportunities, squandered loves, or any of a host of other specific failings. Once you have these failings, it's easier to formulate innocent questions Bart could ask, which might bring back things she'd rather leave forgotten.

 

Once you have one or two specifics, you might have Bart accidentally stepping into one, then backpedaling with a different question, and stepping on another. From there, you might be able to formulate further flaw/question pairings, such that he can't ask anything without bringing up another sore spot. I suspect you want her to realize she's been her own worst enemy, instead of her own best friend. Being faced with so many failings in rapid succession, and by a genuinely innocent set of questions might jar her into taking some ownership of her past.

 

BTW...

Would the story be somehow more interesting if it could progress in the dark, because the power is out? That would be helpful, 'cuz if a skidding car brought down a telephone pole somewhere not too close, it might also make it more plausible why Kathleen didn't just use the library's telephone to call for help to get her out of the situation. See, the phone was dead...

 

 

 

Edited by Wes B
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1 hour ago, Jeff Potts said:

Have Bart dying from cancer.

 

Have him talk about how he too was self-absorbed, and how seeing death around the corner changed his perspective.  Pour out all of his regrets and failings, and have him tell her how now he has no time to make amends.

 

 

 

 

That's an interesting idea!!  Although, I must admit, I don't envision Bart as completely . . . human. 😉

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51 minutes ago, Wes B said:

Being faced with so many failings in rapid succession, and by a genuinely innocent set of questions might jar her into taking some ownership of her past.

True, but the point of the story is that Bart's questions are not innocent.  He's there for a reason, to show Katharine the truth about herself.

 

53 minutes ago, Wes B said:

BTW...

Would the story be somehow more interesting if it could progress in the dark, because the power is out? That would be helpful, 'cuz if a skidding car brought down a telephone pole somewhere not too close, it might also make it more plausible why Kathleen didn't just use the library's telephone to call for help to get her out of the situation. See, the phone was dead...

But this is a brilliant idea!  I'm definitely going to be using this.

 

54 minutes ago, Wes B said:

work out (& share with us, if you like) some specific details & incidents in her life, in which she has shown these flaws

Good idea!  I need to develop her backstory further, but so far, she is a rich, indolent woman whose husband died two years ago.  She has no children, and lives alone in a lavish apartment.  She isn't inherently bad, but she has never really gone out of her way to show kindness to others, or help people in need.  She is apathetic beyond her own needs and interests.

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1 hour ago, Grey_Skies said:

True, but the point of the story is that Bart's questions are not innocent.  He's there for a reason, to show Katharine the truth about herself.

 

You did mention that he's more than he seems, so I did suspect something like this, but I'd presume you'd want to hide this from the reader for a bit too, right? So whether he's truly innocent or merely posing as being innocent, he gets a plausible excuse to ask questions that make her think. You'll have your own way of setting things up, of course.

 

1 hour ago, Grey_Skies said:

But this is a brilliant idea!  I'm definitely going to be using this.

 

As you're a fan of old TV shows, you may recognize this kind of "excuse" where the phone is not available. Way back, when TV seasons were like, 24-26 episodes long, they'd sometimes slip in a special "catch-up" episode, which could be made extra-fast, on a low budget. (In a longer season, they'd have an easier time slipping behind schedule, or running ahead of where the budget should be...) So there might be an episode something like where two cast members got locked-in somewhere, overnight. It was all in one standard set, so no location shots, just two characters, just... talking and opening up. (Since so many of those characters were unlikely to do this, there would often be some additional "excuse," like nothing to drink, except a bottle of some beverage that would not be offered to minors. That would supposedly open them up...)

 

Anyway, one such ep would give the illusion of showing a "deeper" side of two characters, could be done super-cheap, required no set changes, and the rest of the cast could be shooting scenes for the episode after that one, so they could get caught up. My reason for going into all this is that they always needed some excuse as to why there was no phone available. I'm not being brilliant here... I just knew some of the rules of the game, beforehand...

 

EDIT: It was driving me crazy, 'cuz I couldn't remember the name for this type of episode. (It's so common, it had the standard designation as a bottle episode. Just had to get that off my chest... There are other ways than this to set up a bottle episode, but locking two characters in somewhere is a quick and easy excuse...)

 

1 hour ago, Grey_Skies said:

 

Good idea!  I need to develop her backstory further, but so far, she is a rich, indolent woman whose husband died two years ago.  She has no children, and lives alone in a lavish apartment.  She isn't inherently bad, but she has never really gone out of her way to show kindness to others, or help people in need.  She is apathetic beyond her own needs and interests.

 

If you haven't developed her backstory yet, then maybe try to imagine your target audience, and picture what some of their real problems might be. I'm imagining you'll want your audience to relate to her and to learn along with her, so try to make up a composite of all their problems. You might make Katharine a total mess: an exaggeration of their problems, and more. That way, you can try to cover a lot of ground, and the audience won't feel you're wagging a finger at them. See, if they've had some of her problems, they can better relate, but if they don't have all, then they hopefully don't feel that they are her, and are being preached-at...

Edited by Wes B
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Ah, so he's not completely human, eh? 😉

 

6 hours ago, Grey_Skies said:

Basically, the middle needs the dramatic character arc, along with some spicing up.  Any ideas?

Explain that in simpler language for me please. XD My brain's singing that song Larry sang when he was dancing with a manatee.

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1 hour ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

Ah, so he's not completely human, eh?

Righto!  And that's a big part of my motivation to finish the story, because I'm excited to drop hints and let the readers draw their own conclusions as to what he really is.

1 hour ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

Explain that in simpler language for me please. XD My brain's singing that song Larry sang when he was dancing with a manatee.

Oh dear, I'm so sorry, dear. 😆

In simpler language, I need Katharine to complete the change, or arc, from selfish woman to kind, mature lady.  (Y'know, realization of self, changed life, and all that.) And I need that to happen in an engaging way that doesn't have the reader snoozing.

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@Sarah Daffy Well, I'll be as specific as I can.  I'm at the part where Bart asks her, "What's the most important thing in your life?" And Katharine is at a loss as to how to answer, because she actually doesn't know.  She hasn't spent her life doing anything truly worthwhile, and this scene is to be her awakening.  I just don't know how to handle the writing of the scene. 🤷

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Not entirely understanding what you would like to accomplish, you might keep in mind what happened in the movie, "The Bishop's Wife." Lovely story about an angel coming to earth to change the heart and soul of a bishop. In reality, according to the Bible, we have angels all around us. When we become aware of that, our lives take different, more positive directions. Bart could be an angel, giving help as he was given help before he died and later became an angel.

 

I don't know if I have expressed myself clearly but the goal of the story may be redemption in a most angelic and spiritual way. Katherine, like so many, is hurting and seeking help. 

 

Just an idea. But, you have a wonderful story going. Stay with it; I would love to read the ending.

 

Toni 

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5 hours ago, Toni Star said:

 you might keep in mind what happened in the movie, "The Bishop's Wife." Lovely story about an angel coming to earth to change the heart and soul of a bishop.

Good point!  I love that movie.  You might not know yet, but I am CW's aspiring film historian and resident connoisseur.  I have a great passion and love for classic films.

 

5 hours ago, Toni Star said:

we have angels all around us. When we become aware of that, our lives take different, more positive directions. Bart could be an angel, giving help as he was given help before he died and later became an angel.

I gather that you are very perceptive.  In my mind, I envision Bart as perhaps a guardian angel of sorts, but I never state it outright.  I leave it up to the individual reader to decide what he really is.  However, I don't believe he is a human who came back as an angel, because I personally don't agree with that particular doctrine, as it is not in the Bible.

 

5 hours ago, Toni Star said:

the goal of the story may be redemption in a most angelic and spiritual way. Katherine, like so many, is hurting and seeking help. 

Yes, you've the nail on the head here, and thank you so much for your help, Toni.  As soon as I write the middle and part and clean it up a bit, I'll be posting the story here on CW. 😊

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I am replying CW to your earlier post about The Bishop's Wife. Like you, I love that movie and it is neat to know that you are CW's aspiring film historian and resident connoisseur. And, like you, I love classic films. Two of my favorites are Picnic and Mr. Skeffington. I never get tired of watching these movies. 

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@Toni Star Very cool!  Always great to find a fellow classic film fan.  I actually just rewatched Mr. Skeffington last week!  It really is a good one.  Bette Davis is one of my favorites.

 

In case you're interested . . . 😉

 

Link to my YouTube channel:

https://youtube.com/channel/UC1mUWpRAeWZ3L0L0h0bBWoA

 

Link to my blog: 

https://oldhatcinema.medium.com/

 

Both of these are where I talk all about classic films.  I write articles and reviews on the blog, and make tributes to films and actors and other fun stuff on the YouTube channel.  Feel free to check 'em out and maybe subscribe! (I'm a shameless self-promoter. 😆)

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I reviewed some of your classic film review on your blog. You have some excellent film reviews. Like you, I have always been a big fan of Bette Davis and Jimmy Stewart. Both were wonderful actors and did some brilliant acting. I love the picture, "Now Voyager" and as I mentioned before, "Mr. Skeffington. You don't see acting like that anymore. I also thought Burt Lancaster was wonderful in "Elmer Gantry."

Like you and many others, I once aspired to be an actress and have been in a couple of plays. It was a wonderful adventure. I also loved the book and movie, "Marjorie Morningstar."

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@Toni Star Why, thank you!  I appreciate your taking the time to look over some of my reviews.  "Now, Voyager" is definitely a great one; I consider it one of Davis' best performances.  And no, the Golden Era was truly unique, and I don't believe we'll see anything like it again.  Not being familiar with the other two you mentioned, I will certainly look them up!  I think my #1 favorite actor is Lionel Barrymore.  There's just something so unique and talented about him.  Plus, I've always been especially fond of notable character actors.  My top 5 favorite movies would have to be "You Can't Take It with You" (1938), "The Little Foxes" (1941), "A Tale of Two Cities" (1935), "Sunset Boulevard" (1950), and "12 Angry Men" (1954).

 

Oh yes, it's a wonderful thing.  I've been in six plays and I'm currently in my seventh, a mystery/comedy set to be performed shortly before Thanksgiving.

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On 9/18/2021 at 10:19 PM, Grey_Skies said:

Righto!  And that's a big part of my motivation to finish the story, because I'm excited to drop hints and let the readers draw their own conclusions as to what he really is.

Ooh, yes, please do!! As long as you drop the right hints at the right times (not sure how much help I can be on that), then your readers shall be pleased!

(At least I would be, because I like it when I get to figure something out in a book XD.)

 

On 9/18/2021 at 10:19 PM, Grey_Skies said:

Oh dear, I'm so sorry, dear. 😆

In simpler language, I need Katharine to complete the change, or arc, from selfish woman to kind, mature lady.  (Y'know, realization of self, changed life, and all that.) And I need that to happen in an engaging way that doesn't have the reader snoozing.

Ohhhhh, I get it. Thank you for explaining that to me. lol

 

Maybe she gets a flashback? Something she was told in childhood or in her younger years? Or she gets an epiphany that your guy over here hints at and waits for her to pick up on? Just a few impromptu suggestions. 🙂

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12 minutes ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

I like it when I get to figure something out in a book

Yeah, same!  Except for me it can be cool but also frustrating sometimes.

 

13 minutes ago, Ky_GirlatHeart said:

Maybe she gets a flashback? Something she was told in childhood or in her younger years? Or she gets an epiphany that your guy over here hints at and waits for her to pick up on? Just a few impromptu suggestions.

Nah, these are cool suggestions!  But what exactly do you mean by epiphany??

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Just now, Grey_Skies said:

Yeah, same!  Except for me it can be cool but also frustrating sometimes.

LOL, true! It's fun when you get that Ah moment when you discover your thought process wasn't too far off but wasn't too on point.

 

1 minute ago, Grey_Skies said:

Nah, these are cool suggestions!  But what exactly do you mean by epiphany??

Lol, thanks! Epiphany...revelation over something. In this instance, she could have an epiphany about what her life truly is at the current moment and that she needs to change. I meant that the guy could say something or do an action (i.e. hand her something) that sparks that fire in her mind.

 

Please tell me that made sense. 😆

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