Writers are obsessed with questions. Every story has at least one at its core: Can Regan MacNeil’s soul be saved? (The Exorcist). Who is the killer? (Every whodunnit ever). Will the cute alien trapped on Earth survive? (Species. Why, what did you think I meant?). So yup, we spend a lot of time on these – but the ones that really matter are the questions we don’t want anyone to ask. The ones that, come the end of the story, shatter the whole carefully constructed nonsense prose with something like: “Why didn’t Frodo just fly a giant eagle to Mount Doom and throw the One Ring into it?” We hate them.
To avoid having more egg on our faces than Humpty Dumpty when he fell off the wall, we try to anticipate these questions (usually after the first draft and before the second pint, whilst the memory’s still functioning), and fill in any pesky plot holes with quick-setting detail before anyone notices. When I kicked my short story out the door and told it not to return without lots of feedback, I was confident I’d done precisely that. Indeed, the only question that would be asked was the one I’d left deliberately unanswered, a nugget of detail hidden amongst the Faustian frivolities for the curious. And nobody gave it a second glance. Understandable really: my poor suffering readers were too busy climbing out of plot holes that some careless, egg-faced idiot had left lying around…
The one thing more thrilling/terrifying than submitting a story is receiving the reply. Rejection hurts, though not as much as the inquisition that follows, the search for its failings without a single clue as to what they are. But Create50 is different. As a creative community it gives you the feedback you need, and as a publishing outlet it encourages you to redraft and resubmit. I doubt there’s a more writer-friendly environment anywhere. They made the difference. They asked the questions I never thought of. And they are the reason my Devil in the Detail is now in Twisted’s Evil Little Sister.
PS: Prof. Tolkien probably did answer the one about the eagles, but the last time I read Lord of the Rings the Mines of Moria were being closed down by Thatcher.
PPS: The question nobody asked was “Why is the painting called The Three Sisters?” The fact it has absolutely no bearing on the plot may have something to do with that.
PPPS: And thank you, to everyone who read and commented and made my story better, and saved me from a very long and pointless walk to Mordor.
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