I’m sure our American cousins have a term that means the same thing as snookered. Painting yourself into a corner, reaching a dead end, that sort of thing.
Last night, I realised I’d snookered myself with my latest short story, The Lighthouse. Everything had gone swimmingly for the previous few days, the words were flowing, the story seemed to be gelling. I opened the laptop last night thinking I’d be carrying on as I begun. Instead, I sat there for thirty minutes, toying with the same paragraph until realisation struck me.
My story was going precisely nowhere. To be sure, events were unfolding more or less to plan, but nothing much was actually happening. It’s like you spin your wheels in your flash car, excited by the noise and smoke, until you discover the tread has worn through in twenty seconds flat and the tyre’s about to burst. The first two pages was all set up – reasonably well written to be sure, but not advancing the plot one inch. And then the second problem occurred to me – for a spooky story, there wasn’t much to unsettle the reader. Gloomy weather, an ever present fog and a few odd inhabitants of a fishing village do not a spooky story make.
It’s pretty disheartening when you reach that point. Writing time is a precious commodity at the moment, and to think I’ve wasted the last week of late evenings was pretty galling. I did think of scrapping the story and starting over, this time with the action opening at the lighthouse, and much more vibrantly described. But I’m a hoarder by nature, and those first few pages seem too good to lose.
So I’ve hit upon a plan. Scrap the last couple of pages, go back and amp up the weirdness, make the central character less of a placid patsy for upcoming events, tweak a couple of the other characters and make the whole set up way more menacing. Oh, and work out the ending. That’s important.
Of course, I thought the first set of plans were the best laid. Here’s to what our American cousins call a ‘do over’…