While waiting to hear the fate of my YA proposal, I wrote the first draft of a short story. Writers typically have two kinds of reactions to first drafts. One: Fueled by enthusiasm and accomplishment, they think the story wonderful and brilliant and destined for some Best of the Year. Or, two: They hate it.
I'm the second kind of writer. But I think this story has a problem that goes beyond my usual post-partum literary depression. This one, tentatively titled "Unintended Behavior," is an idea story. I still like the idea, but the characters strike me as stereotypical. I usually do my best work when I start with an idea embodied in a character ("Fountain of Age," "Beggars in Spain"), and lesser work when I start with a naked idea ("The Rules"). "Unintended Behavior" features a pair of over-used characters: controlling and verbally abusive husband and long-suffering, victimized wife. Not good.
But there's much in the story I like. So I could 1) give the plot to a different pair of deeply enmeshed characters: two sisters, perhaps. The problem is that no relationship is as deeply enmeshing as marriage except for parent-child, and that will not work for this story. Or I could 2) try to modulate both characters, making the husband less villainous and the wife less victimized. Or, 3) I could keep the characters I have but reverse the gender roles, which might be interesting. It has to be done well, though, or it will just look like a lame attempt to reverse gender roles.
I don't know yet which I will do. But that's this week's assignment: wrestle with my story's Unintended Behavior.