My stories are all interconnecting in a bad way. When I first started last summer, I rounded up potential candidates for the collection and sat staring at them. Twelve stories and there was no uniting theme, nothing to say they were from the same family, and in some cases, even from the same writer. The styles changed drastically from clipped, contemporary storyteller to ‘once upon a time’ old grey-bearded minstrel, with lines and lines of semi-colon narrative.
My editor told me to that the themes would come in their own time. I waited and tried not to obsess. Sure enough, it started happening. My stories were all about relationships between lovers and families. In almost all of them people were drowning; symbolically of course, but in one or two cases literarily.
I had a title and I was happy. I kept working, rewriting, fixing problems, letting other stories expand. More similarities appeared. The number 29, the sound of the rain, a fondness for grandfathers, a love of sweet things and a penchant for the word penchant.
I kept a few subtle things and peppered some with a heavier hand. I hoped I wasn’t too obvious. My title story, which I’d pinned my hopes on, was a complete mess. I came back from workshop dejected, stung, misunderstood. I had given my character a familiar background but she wasn’t working.
Why did it bother me so much when people didn’t get her? I reread it at home. It wasn’t so bad. Why was the story unpopular? Was it because my protag didn’t know how to protect herself from the elements?
I was tired of always painting strong women: smart and self-assured. This time I wanted to write about a neurotic person. Someone who was afraid, with more fear than love in her heart and this (and possibly my protectiveness) caused me to be less perceptive about the story.
I put it in a drawer and hoped that some months later, when I was less hurt, I could pull it out and work on it again. But now that I had my title, I no longer had a story. I kept writing, but over the winter I began to panic. I’ll never finish. I’ll never complete the stories. I’ll never be good enough and my poor fiction collection will fall to the wayside.
This way of thinking would soon annihilate me, so I turned the doubt to barely audible and immersed myself in each story, blocking off the whole package, the whole book. One by one I tackled each candidate, blocking out my worry about themes and concepts.
Then, one week ago, I brought all the finished shorts out. They had started leaning onto one another like fallen trees, like dominos, like drunken friends out on a weekend. My stories were interconnecting, breathing life into each another and ignoring my desires. Some characters were crossing over into other stories; their conflicts and resolutions sprouting up in still other tales.
Like a second rate puppet master, hopelessly staring at his creations I wondered what to do with all the strings.
I’m getting scared now. I’m afraid the more I write, the less individual my stories until all I have left is one big fat story. I may be wrong but I don’t think this is the way to go about getting a theme. I feel I’m reaching my apex with this book and that I’ve said all I have to say and have started to repeat myself.