Stolen – The Process

Stolen is story number thirteen in the #52ShortStories challenge.

**SPOILERS BELOW. If you have not read the story and want to be (hopefully) surprised, come back to this when you’re done.**

 

For me, this story really hit home the concept of reader expectations.

I always seem to start my tales with some sort of fantastical bent in mind, but this time, I dunno….something drove me toward not so much a twisty-turny ending, but one that hopefully was just as satisfying without needing to be a “trick” pulled on the reader.

With that in mind, my first reader finished it and said the ending just seemed off to her. After further discussion, I learned it was because she was expecting my typical style. Then she iterated that my ending wasn’t bad, just not what she expected. This is a good lesson when it comes time to publish…If I want to vary my styles so much, it may be worth thinking about alternate pen names.

Where inspiration is concerned, I read a wonderful poem called The Stolen Child by W.B. Yeats. It’s one of his earliest, but the whole concept of faeries trying to shield the wonderful innocence of a child spoke to me. I combined that line of thought with a National Geographic article I read about a man who harvests psychotropic honey. Again, I love how these varied references meld together into some sort of delicious story stew.

I’m also very curious, dear reader, how you visualized the POV character? It was my goal to make him/her completely gender-neutral so the reader could visualize either a male or female. My wife imagined it being a boy, but she reasoned it wasn’t because of my writing; it was just her default view on the type of person that would carry a blade and scale cliffs, especially in an antiquated, tribal-type setting where men typically do that sort of work.

I hope you enjoyed this one as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Here’s the general scratch file:

And the daily journal entries:

-Phillip

4 thoughts on “Stolen – The Process”

  1. Reader expectations are a blessing and a curse. It can be hard to deliver the type of story that you know your readers are expecting, especially if your own instincts lead in a different direction.

    On the other hand, playing with and subverting what the reader expects can also be key to writing truly great stories. Some of my favorite works of fiction deliberately mislead the audience into expecting one thing, only to spring the true nature of the story on them later on. I’ve written a couple stories that tried to do this, and it I think it’s also probably why I’m such a fan of the “unreliable narrator” trope.

    Personally, I don’t mind an author writing under the same name and publishing all different types of stories. I think it’s cool to see they can experiment with different styles. But I can see that it could be a branding problem–if you get a following for being “the guy who writes horror,” you might have a hard time if you publish a comedy.

    1. Glad to get another perspective on this, Berthold. You’re right: sometimes subverting those expectations is just what some readers are looking for to ‘keep the spark alive.’

  2. Oh, and I should add: I visualized the main character in “Stolen” being a boy, much for the same reasons your wife did. In fact, if you had asked me after reading it what the character’s gender was, I would have said “male,” and sworn that it actually said so in the text. I didn’t even realize it had been kept ambiguous until reading this. So, I think you succeeded in writing it so the reader could fill in whatever felt natural to them.

    1. Thanks for the feedback on this portion as well! I must say, the ability to try so many different techniques is one of my favorite reasons for writing these short stories!

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