Well, the story’s over. When I draft short stories, I usually let them run, drafting them in a matter of days once the initial idea finally takes hold (i.e. when I finally move beyond the page or so of notes and sketches that I usually begin with). Writing “Peel Away” as a series of posts, however, allowed the story to evolve over six weeks or so, which caused me to regularly evaluate and reevaluate the character and the arc of the story. Thomas took shape from week to week, and I am pleased with how he turned out (and maybe a little sad to see him go).
Serial posts also made me consider audience in an entirely new way. Every writer has a composite of ideal readers in mind, both real and imagined. Each time I posted I envisioned the friends and relatives who read my blog (Thank you!), keeping a constellation of you in mind as I thought through Thomas’s past, the descriptions of the factory, and all of the ways I could make the story interesting for you while also telling it in a way that was true to my original vision.
And, because this is a blog that could potentially seen by ‘the world’ of the internet (or at least other wordpressers), I had the added responsibility of considering readers with whom I have no relationship whatsoever.
“If I stumbled across this,” I thought, “would I continue reading?”
This thought has guided my writing from the start, in that I write stories that I would like to read, following, in a way, Walter Benjamin’s dictum:
“Writers,” he wrote, “are really people who write books not because they are poor, but because they are dissatisfied with the books which they could buy but do not like.”
Each post required reviewing what had come before, reflecting on additions and how they affected my vision for the original ending, and continuously evaluating whether or not Thomas felt real or sympathetic based upon the accretion of details about his past, his actions, and the challenges he faced–all with many more imagined readers looking over my shoulder.
Practice alone leads to skill; being on display leads to more thoughtful writing.