Wednesday 18 January 2012

Superheroes... and Self-Doubt

As of yesterday, I have a new story up on Every DayFiction. I’m really pleased to have another story up there, as I like the site and try to visit as frequently as possible. They’re not at all snobbish about fiction, which leads to an interesting mix of styles, subjects, and genres.

This story, Just Jeff, is one I wrote a year or so ago. Long-term followers of this blog may remember that, at the time, I had some doubts about whether I was subconsciously stealing ideas from another author. Although I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s just a case of me being more directly influenced by something I’ve enjoyed than is usually the case, seeing it on the site has made me wonder whether somebody out there is about to shout “Cheat!” at me. But I think I’m worrying unnecessarily. It’s not the same story, none of the characters are the same, and the events have nothing in common. But, still, I’d be interested to hear from anybody who’s read Andrew Kaufman’s “All MyFriends Are Superheroes” and thinks I’ve crossed a line.

Actually, thinking about it, Just Jeff is probably more influenced by the film Mystery Men than anything else.

The story went to a few competitions but didn’t bring home any awards. Every Day Fiction was the first regular ‘market’ I tried, and from their comments, the editors clearly ‘got’ it. In some ways it’s an awkward story – what actually went on is revealed via descriptions of events that didn’t happen, there’s no real way of telling whether Jeff is a superhero or not, and the list of the other superheroes may be too much for some readers (at the time of writing, that seems to be the only criticism coming through in the comments section). I like stories that play around with convention, take a few risks, etc, but it does mean they can be hard to place.

... Like the story of mine that just got rejected from Smokelong. Again, there are elements to this one that perhaps limit its chances of publication. The narrative isn’t straightforward, with a lot of it written in future tense. Parts of it may or may not be written from the protagonist’s point of view, or it may be the narrative voice speaking directly to her. The events described in the story might not actually happen, depending on how you interpret the last line. Sometimes I wonder if I’m making life unnecessarily hard for myself.

But I think it’s important to challenge yourself. As a writer, you can slip into a groove and just churn out pretty much the same story in various different guises over and over again, or you can force yourself to tackle stories that seem like a bit of a long shot, styles that stretch you, make you rethink things you “know” for certain. Staying in your comfort zone may help make you a competent writer, but how will you ever get better?


Patsy said...

Just Jeff is quite an odd story and breaks several rules - as you say most of it's about what doesn't happen. Also there are far more characters than you'd usually want for that length story, and almost all of them aren't strictly part of the action anyway, so yes I can see it wouldn't fit many places. I like it though.

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Patsy. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

It's good to give the rule book a little shake every once in a while, isn't it?

Rachel Fenton said...

I agree about shaking up the rule book - just wish more people would "get" my writing, though, invariable (as happens with shaking up the rules) I fall on my bum a lot...many reasons to keep experimenting....

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Rachel. A bruised bum is a sign of a writer taking risks! As long as you get straight back up again you'll be okay.

Sadly, there seems to be a rule in place that means the stories closest to your heart are the ones that take the most work to place somewhere. But they're the ones that give the biggest rewards, so keep trying!