The Story Behind the Story: Learning Curve

The second story in Philosophy and Fairy Tales (still available on Smashwords, not that I’m hinting) began with an image in my head: A science teacher trying to explain spontaneous generation (where maggots arise asexually from rotting meat) in biology class.
The idea of science teaching in a world where science was different tickled my fantasy. As I worked it through, I began to think it would be less about the science than the teaching. Lauren, my protagonist, deals with the stuff regular teachers do in our world: Apathetic students, officious bureaucrats, tedious regulations and the religious right (this world has its own version of the Intelligent Design movement).
It was that goal to present everyday (sort-of) teaching that made me write it as a setting story. It’s one week in a new teacher’s life, Monday to Friday. A look at her world. No lessons learned, no problems solved, just life. I think it came out more interesting than that sounds (sure hope so!)
A breakthrough came when I read the excellent book Spice, by Jack Turner. In detailing the history of our discovery of and use of spices, Turner describes how, back in the day when our personalities were shaped by the four humors (phlegmatic, choleric, etc.) it was assumed spices and other foods worked like mood altering drugs. Ginger sexes you up; hot pepper makes your temper hotter; buttermilk calms you down. So I threw that into the mix.
I began to see my world as one where experimental science had never really won out over the purely logical approach of the ancient Greeks. Reason and “natural philosophy” are exalted fields; hands-on science is blue-collar, only marginally better than shop class.
I didn’t have much luck sending the story around until Byzarium (now defunct) picked it up. Rereading it for my anthology, I must admit I can see why. One of the things my writing group constantly has to point out is that I skip a few more speech tags than I should and yeah, it was really easy to get lost in who was saying what to who. There were also a couple of expository speeches that really didn’t need to be there. And now they’re not.
All things considered, the finished version is much closer to my original concept than most of mine end up.


Filed under Story behind the story, Writing

2 responses to “The Story Behind the Story: Learning Curve

  1. Pingback: Books for writers | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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

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