Story Behind the Story: Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Clown

My first published story of 2011—and first-ever podcast—is now online at Drabblecast. It’s said genius (or at least really good work) is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration, but developing this one shows that the 1 percent inspiration counts for a lot.
I’m not quite sure what put the title phrase into my head—other than a general fondness for puns—but almost immediately, I had the first inspiration, the idea of someone waking up in bed and discovering he’s turned into a clown (white face, red lips, orange hair). I knew I had a story there, even if I didn’t know what it was yet.
I decided to turn out a first draft right away—and before I’d started, the second inspiration hit: Instead of telling the story, review someone else’s telling of the story.
I’m a huge admirer of Jorge´Luis Borges, the great Argentinian literary fantasy writer (and if you haven’t read Library of Babel, Lottery of Babylon, Funes the Memorious and Theme of the Traitor and the Hero, I highly recommend you change that). One of his stories, The Approach to Al-Mutasim, presents the premise—a young man’s quest for the most perfect person in the world—in the form of a book review. And hey, if it’s good enough for Borges, it’s good enough for me.
After a couple of drafts, I had a solid storyline and a snarky tone for the reviewer, but I could see something was missing. As I noted here, I went back and reread the Borges story to see how he made it work.
Immediately I saw what I was doing wrong. Borges’ story goes into exhaustive detail about the book he’s reviewing—the plot developments, the key incidents, the significant characters. So I went back and added a lot more detail to It Is That I May Not Weep, the novel that I’m “reviewing.” Enough that the characters and the plot come through along with the book’s theme. That in turn, gave my reviewer more to critique.
I tried it out for my writer’s group and they loved it, so after one more going over I sent it out. The second submission was to Drabblecast, and it sold (with several compliments about how awesome it was). A solid hour of rewriting to make some requested changes and I was good to go.
Go. Listen. Let me know what you think.

2 Comments

Filed under Short Stories, Story behind the story, Writing

2 responses to “Story Behind the Story: Uneasy Lies the Head That Wears the Clown

  1. Pingback: I don’t quite get cover reveals but as I have a cover to reveal … (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Atlas Shagged is a go! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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