I’m continuing to review my short story The Storm, making note of all the areas I wish to improve on as I go.
- There is a line I just came across that has me utterly baffled.
This put him at a slant to the waves, and now they were beating like Poseidon’s drum against his hull
I honestly have no idea how I came up with the expression “beating like Poseidon’s drum.” I am not familiar of any legend that associates Poseidon with the instrument, and a quick Google search cannot find any either. It seems very irregular that I would have made it up out of nothing, but I don’t know what other conclusion to make. I’ll certainly be cutting that out.
- There’s also a disorienting bit when Oscar starts having a conversation with himself. Its too melodramatic and the references to his tragedy are too obscure. They’ll most likely just confuse the reader. I’ll cut this out as well.
- Let’s call out something positive, though. I don’t remember where I got the idea to have two boats tethered together, pushing their way through a storm, but it presents a very striking visual, one that I’m not aware of in any other story, and it is an excellent symbolism for the drama between my characters. I think this is the single strongest element of my entire story.
- Another bit I feel quite positive about is Harry’s confession. His admission reads well and I like how it is interspersed with scenes of Oscar losing control of the wheel. There is some tidy-up to do, but this is a very promising scene. Given that it is the climax of the entire tale its a good thing that it works so well.
I think that I could lean into it a bit better, though. I want to add a small piece to the plot right before. The storm will be beating down hard and the two men will stop making progress forward. It will be a hopeless situation, which will finally bring Harry to make his confession. He is divulging the truth to try and convince Oscar to just let him go and save himself.
- I currently have things so that Oscar unconsciously puts his hand over the controls, as if to drop the line to Harry’s boat, and he is surprised when he sees it there. I want to rework that part so it isn’t just a subconscious accident. I want him to fully contemplate disconnecting the other sailor, heavily weighing the option, frozen by the choice until he is saved by the beam of the lighthouse falling on his vessel.
- I need to fill out the final homestretch a little bit. The story needs more about how they rush the rest of the way to the beach. And then I need to add some more after that, too. I like the idea of the men going off to talk to Sam at the end, unsure of what the future holds but heading that way together. Right now, though, I’m reaching that conclusion too abruptly, and I need to provide some space for it to breathe.
And that brings us to the end of my read-through! To tell you the truth, when I first selected this story I didn’t think there would be much to change in it. I had very fond memories of writing it and felt it was already pretty close to its ideal form. I am now considerably humbled to see how many parts of it I actually have a problem with!
But I do feel that there is still a very good story to be found inside of there. It’s been compromised by awkward phrases, uneven pacing, and silly typos, but it is in there nonetheless. I caught glimpses of it as I read along and I’m excited to bring it out fully. Let me see if I can give a general description of what that ideal story looks like, and the main points that need to be changed to realize it.
This is a story about two men dealing with incredible loss and anger. The setting and the occupation are meant to reflect how they have been weathered down and turned salty over the years. They might appear slow-going on the surface, but there are many layers of dramatic depth beneath, all of which are going to force their way out in the eye of a violent storm.
It is a story that should be full of rich imagery. I need to practice the art of capturing a complex visual in a few, well-chosen words. It should be a story that transports the reader right onto the windswept deck, and I want the audience to feel as exhausted at the end as my characters are. I could see the ideal story being quite a bit longer than its current form, or at the very least feeling quite a bit longer. I want to hone in on that sense of gripping at the wheel for hours, holding on for dear life.
But having a great deal of rich imagery is not the same as an excess of poorly-written drivel! There are a lot of bits where I am trying to explain the way things are when you’re an old sea dog, something that I know absolutely nothing about! This is an allegory, not an actual job description and I should keep my focus where it belongs.
There is very little that I feel need to change from a structural point of view, though. All the main story beats should remain the same, just with each moment being enhanced or trimmed as mentioned above, all of its splintered edges sanded down and polished to an even shine.
And that is what I will start working on one week from now. Come back then to see how it goes!