Story Behind the Story: Heads Up

Woot! Altered Reality just reprinted my short story Heads Up. It first came out in 2013, now it lives again! And it’s my first sale in more than a year so it’s very welcome.

So as usual here’s the backstory on its genesis, taken from the post I made when it debuted on Every Day Fiction: The last time I stayed out at my brother’s house for Thanksgiving (2009, I believe), I had a dream about finding a head in his washing machine. That thought stayed with me, so I decided to write a story about it. Except, of course, the head would be alive and talking (I don’t remember now if that was part of the dream, though I think it was)

My first version was just a long gag. The narrator can’t believe what’s happening, but at the same time he has no trouble believing all kinds of absurdity (the Earth is flat, Obama is the Antichrist, NASA faked the moon landing). It was kind of an ironic observation on how we’re not as rational as we think.

It also wasn’t very good. As one editor pointed out (and while I forget which magazine it was, I thank you for the feedback), there was no real plot, no conflict, so I set out to fix that. Instead of irony, I went with the classics: Along with man vs. god, man vs. man, man vs. nature, we would now have man with a load of laundry vs. a head in the washing machine that doesn’t want to be disturbed.

This partly draws on my own early twenties experience of being dead broke (my struggling, starving writer days. Don’t miss’em). Getting access to a friend or family member’s washing machine was a blessing. So my protagonist has a big date, he’s worn the same briefs for two days, he has no other clean ones and he can’t afford to buy dinner if he has to use the laundromat. And then he discovers the uncooperative head. (Before you ask, no, the situation of washing two-day-old briefs before a big date was not based on personal experience).

After several further turndowns, I sent it to Every Day Fiction. The reviewers said they liked it, but the emphasis on just how grungy and gross his underwear was needed to get toned waaaaay down. I was fine with that, and with the other changes requested.

They liked the rewrite.”

And so did Altered Reality. So go read it!


Filed under Short Stories, Story behind the story

2 responses to “Story Behind the Story: Heads Up

  1. Congrats, Fraser! Such a cool concept for a story–I love when dreams inspire that kind of crossover. And, I loved hearing the origin story behind the story.

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