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I Used to be Someone Else (a 50-word story and its evolution)

Another Wednesday, another writing challenge. Once again (maybe because it’s fun and maybe because I’m a little bit lazy), I’ve combined two writing challenges. It was a wee bit trickier for me this time because I blended Cafe Muravyets 50-word story challenge with the Inspiration Monday challenge over at Be Kind Rewrite. 50-words doesn’t leave a lot of room to maneuver, but I finally found came up with a story that worked. Here you are…

I Used to be Someone Else

broken glassThe world is dying, but at The Sandbar (Happy Hour Specials! Karaoke Nightly!) drinks are half price. I order an Onerous Maneuver from one-eyed Wink, who never smiles.

Screaming. Snarling. The window breaks.

I used to be someone else. That doesn’t matter now. I drink fast and grab my machete.

***

Ordinarily, I’d end the post right here but today I thought I’d share this story’s evolution since (as is often the case) it started out in a completely different place and the result surprised me. I haven’t included all the story attempts I made, only the ones that best illustrate the changes. The following drafts have only been edited for spelling and are otherwise in their rough, naked glory.

Attempt 1

I make the onerous nightly trek to the Sandbar where the customers wink and I must maneuver away from their
grabbing hands. I serve them drinks and dream of home.

Too few words and not a strong enough connection to “I used to be someone else.”

Attempt 4

I see him nightly at the Sandbar. He orders an onerous maneuver. I wonder what it tastes like. I wait for him to turn and smile but he only ever stares into his drink. I see the pretty bartender wink as she serves him the drink but he doesn’t look up. She shrugs and walks away. When he is finished, he’ll pay for his drink and walk home. I will follow. It is a nightly dance for the two of us. Maybe he knows I’m there and maybe this is all a dream.

Way too many words and still not a strong enough connection to “I used to be someone else.”

I play around with wording for several attempts but I’m still not satisfied with the idea. I think I need to rethink it almost entirely.

Attempt 15 (yep…15..really)

I order an onerous maneuver, the nightly special, from a bartender named Wink at The Sandbar. He doesn’t smile. Only waits for me to pay. It feels like I’ve done this before but I can’t remember.

It’s not finished, but I feel like I’m on the right track. It’s almost there.

Attempt 16

Outside the world is dying, but at The Sandbar (Happy Hour Specials! Karaoke Nightly!) the drinks are  half price. I order an onerous maneuver from a bartender named Wink. I hear the screaming down the street. Hope I can finish my drink before
the apocalypse comes in here.

Aha! There’s the idea that I didn’t know I always wanted for this story. 😀 I tweaked it just a little more and ended up with the final draft at the beginning of this blog post.

***

What do you think of how the story evolved? Does it change the way you perceive the final story to see where it came from? If you write flash fiction (or short stories, novels, etc), how many drafts do you go through before you get a final result and how much does your story change?

Photo Credit
broken glass by francesca!!, on Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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29 thoughts on “I Used to be Someone Else (a 50-word story and its evolution)

  1. Great story – I like the way you worked in “onerous maneuver”!

    I like the final version of the story best, but my second choice would be Attempt #1. It feels almost there – what made you decide to go in a different direction?

    1. Thanks! .
      I had been rolling the idea of a waitress at a bar called the Sandbar for a couple of days. It seemed like the right way to go until I started writing it out…then I just could get a good feel for the character. Then, all sorts of other ideas kept popping into my head. The shiny new ideas seduced me. 😀

    1. I’ve gotten very enthusiastic about versioning. Every time I edit, I get paranoid that I’m going to hate the new draft and want to go back to the old…so I keep ’em all. Most of ’em anyway. In the end, it’s kind of fun to look back and see how I got there.

  2. Great story and I love the ‘backstage pass’ to your editing process. I’m interested in your use of time. How much time was there in between each edit? I believe the longer you leave between writing and editing, the more objective you can become. But the problem is, every time you look at your written you might believe you can improve it. Some writers never finish editing. Tolkein edited Lord of the Rings every time it was republished, and the publisher usually had to drag it from Tolkein’s hands with him claiming he wanted to do more editing. How do we know when a story needs no more editing?

    1. I started the story last night. I had planned to write one as soon as Mura put out the challenge but I had a couple of other stories to write first. Then, I saw this week’s Inspiration Monday and something clicked. I wrote versions 1-4 last night and finished the rest this morning. One thing that’s so great about flash fiction is that it’s so quick to write and rewrite. With a longer short story (or something novel lengthed), I usually give the story a lot longer to marinate. Flash fiction just seems to push me to write faster though. 😀

  3. This is really cool to see your process. I really like “It is a nightly dance for the two of us. Maybe he knows I’m there and maybe this is all a dream.” from Attempt 4. It makes me want to read more.

    I’ve done so little flash fiction that I don’t feel qualified to talk about my process. I only have two posted on my blog – both as they came, unedited. The first came to me when I wasn’t expecting and I typed it into my phone. For the second, I thought, “I like that prompt, I’ll work on that later.” Then the first line came. Then the rest. So both were vomited out and I don’t really edit. It’s very freeing just to say “heck with it” and hit the Publish button!

    1. Thank you! I liked Attempt 4 too…some of those “rejected bits” could turn into longer stories. That’s a benefit of versioning, I guess.

      There:’s definitely something about flash fiction that just tends to hit you. I have a hard time calling it quits with the editing sometimes. But it is just exciting to let it go. 😀 This is the first time I’ve had to rewrite a piece of flash fiction so many times. Usually it’s just a few times. The muse just didn’t want to give it up all the way this morning. LOL

  4. A great story – everything was there in just 50 words.
    I was there at the end wondering what was outside & would the machete be enough to save her, probably not.
    I thought it was a great idea outlining how you got to this story. It’s a bit like travelling with you on your train of thoughts. I must give this a try.
    I liked ‘attempt 1’ – an interesting start to a story, maybe one you should develop but not be limited to 50 words?
    Thanks.

    1. 😀 I remember when I first considered that the published novels I so admired had once been rough drafts…maybe even completely different stories. It boggled my mind that they didn’t come out fully formed, like Athena (or was it Aphrodite?). It gave me such hope too…maybe my cruddy first drafts could eventually turn into stories I’d be proud to share. Now, I’m kind hooked on the whole process of story transformation.

  5. Loved your story. Interesting, I’ve never saved the first draft after completing an edit to compare. I will have to try this idea out. I’m new to your blog BTW, and I enjoyed it very much.

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by! You’re welcome to pop over anytime. 😀 A huge benefit to saving previous drafts is that you have a file of bits that might work for something else.

  6. Amazing. I love seeing how the story evolved. I’m always interested in the creative process and I have a soft spot for “Before and After” things (tv shows, blog posts…) Thanks for sharing!

  7. Great story. I especially love the parenthetical statement. Good move.
    Even more than that, I love seeing the different drafts; I love seeing you reach around in the dark until you find the right one.

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