Second of the authors on my blog today is, Elizabeth M. Lawrence who has given me a great guest post. Her story in the Heat Wave anthology is called, Wishing Cotton.
A short story is often difficult to talk about in-depth simply due to its brevity, and so readers may wonder why an author would choose not to expand a tale into a full-length novel. As writers of flash fiction will tell you, it is possible to create a whole, breathing, vibrant world in very few words, and short stories are often more complex than their lengthier counterparts. My previous short story, My Apple Tree, actually told two separate stories that covered a great deal of time and incorporated several different characters. However, I have elected to keep my new short story, Wishing Cotton, very simple and uncomplicated.
In my experience, it is the little moments in a story that resonate the strongest with readers rather than the entire plot as a whole. Readers want, of course, to be engaged throughout the full length of the tale, whether it be a novel or a short story. However, a story’s success often hinges on just a paragraph or two – sometimes only one sentence. I’m not pretending to have a powerful, magical moment like that, but it does support the theory that a story does not need to be complicated to be enjoyable.
Wishing Cotton is by far the simplest story I’ve ever written (as an adult, anyway). On its face, it introduces us to three characters: Olive Alexander, her friend Blair Adams, and Peter Keyes. Olive and Blair are vacationing together in a cabin by the beach, and Peter has likewise rented one of his own. All three characters are at a moment in their lives when they must make some decision about where they will go from here. Olive is adjusting after the end of a long-term relationship, Blair is struggling against her need for financial security, and Peter is living under the shadow of a professional failure. While each of them responds in their unique way to their challenges, none of these scenarios are unusual. We can understand the emotions behind their situations because each is something that almost everyone has experienced in their lives. By not focusing on the particulars of the back story, we are able to see the commonalities that resonate with our own experiences.
Likewise, it is the simplicity of this story that allows the reader to see the true lessons that can be taken from each small development in the plot. In order to move forward, the characters must be honest with themselves and identify what is most important to each of them. Until they do this, each of them is trapped in a moment of indecision. If the overarching story were more complex, this essential detail would be lost, but without anything to distract from it, the reader is fully aware of the truth behind each character’s ultimate wish.
I will admit that it is somewhat daunting to present such a basic, straightforward plot. The modern trend favors more dramatic and tempestuous story lines. However, as with any other manuscript I’ve worked on, the central idea and the characters engaged and intrigued me, and I felt that their experiences, however simple, deserved to be brought to life. Authors – like any creative professionals – need to continually stretch and develop their skill, and I have found that writing a simple story is far more challenging than I would have anticipated.
Wishing Cotton is being released on July 23, 2013, by Renaissance Romance Publishing. I hope that readers will enjoy my effort at simple storytelling!
Throw a penny in a well, wish on a star, find a four-leaf clover . . . No matter which rituals people follow, none ever seem to work. But what if there were a way to make wishes come true? For best friends Olive Alexander and Blair Adams, a beach holiday provides the perfect opportunity to see if they can find the secret. Could fellow vacationer Peter Keyes hold the key to solving this puzzle?
Pulling a piece of cotton candy from its cone, Olive rolled it around in her fingers, letting it get sticky and matted. She glowered down at the mess she was making without really seeing it and thought, “All I want is a man who will love me for who I am. Someone I can talk to and laugh with and be friends with. I just wish I could fall in love and know that it was real and true and forever. A man I can grow old with and go exploring with and just . . .”
Olive jumped about half a foot. The unexpected greeting came from her left, where a man of about thirty sat grinning at her. She was certain he had not been there a minute ago. Even in her funk, she would have noticed the kind, dark brown eyes, expressive eyebrows, and generous lower lip that gave her some rather interesting ideas about potential nibbling. His hair looked almost as though he had been electrocuted, sticking up in all directions in a way that should have been a disaster, but he managed to pull it off somehow. It suited him.
She attempted to regain her composure, but her heart was still hammering in a rather determined manner. “Um . . . Hi.” Brilliant. Someone should give her the Pulitzer.
“So,” her new acquaintance continued in a smooth British accent, “are you having some sort of existential crisis, or are you just not a fan of funfairs in general? You looked quite cross when I sat down.”
“I suppose I did,” she agreed, not really wanting to tell this man that she’d been indulging in a bit of a pity party.
Elizabeth M. Lawrence is the author of both contemporary and period romances. Each book incorporates its own unique blend of humor and reverence, the paranormal and the mundane, innocence and insanity. In addition to her novels, Elizabeth serves as Editor-in-Chief for Renaissance Romance Publishing. A lifelong writer and former paralegal, Elizabeth divides her free time between her husband and two sons, her three cats, her collection of cozy murder mysteries, her slight Doctor Who obsession, and her mildly severe caffeine addiction. A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Elizabeth now works from her home in Cleveland, Ohio.