Beneath Ceaseless Skies - 174

First, the news ~

Factor Four Magazine announced yesterday they are closing. This was a bit abrupt and unexpected, at least on my end. I did have a story out on sub to them, but I guess not! I'm sorry to see another pro market fold.

Rattle is having a poetry postcard submission call. No pressure, right? I can use past postcards per their guidelines, and the contest includes the image used. Which poetry postcard has been your favorite??

I found this long, but interesting page on How to Structure a Cozy Mystery since I was asking about how you would write that genre in a short story format earlier this week. This might help if you're considering it!

Jeff sent me an article about how bestselling ebooks are genre. That's great news for all you indie authors out there!

A reminder that the tinybook tier has open slots for 2020! Sign up now to get a little more joy in your mailbox starting in January. 🍄

We went to see the movie Knives Out. If you can only see one movie on your limited funds, this one's a great choice. The WRITING! Dan and I spent most of the drive home being agog at the tight and smart way Rian Johnson laid down the clues and the personalities through words. The acting is also marvelous. I can't say anything else without risking spoiling things, so just trust me when I say go see it!

174. The Petals of the Godflower by Kyle Kirrin

Another excellent (and bold) secondary-world story questioning faith. I'm not sure the end worked for me? It felt like a sharp turn compared to the smoothness of the rest of the tale. The world-building here is beautifully done - immersive and natural. I fell inside the world easily.

The first scene, including the first line, is thick with clues and one strong hook to pull you close. The last line, though. Whew. That's your real story. The last paragraph lays bare the conflict and the stakes, and the personality of the main character.

No one so much as glances my way, and for once in my life, I manage to feel grateful. Why spoil Mother’s joy by pointing out the lone exception, the nameless girl whose suicide is two weeks overdue, the wretch for whom twenty sun-pocked winters is not near enough, the selfish creature who can barely sleep at night because her every waking thought is haunted by the possibility that the Godflower is just a fucking plant. 

The second scene is a gentle curve. It traces the boundaries of what is happening and why, and how the main character is currently dealing with the conflict. She doesn't have agency, but she has a simmering resentment and bitterness. This is mostly done through dialogue.

I recently received a rejection from this market, and some of the feedback given was that they were looking for more "narrative urgency stemming from the protagonist's thoughts and actions." I wasn't quite sure what they meant by that. I understand the words, but not the meaning fully. I feel like perhaps this story is showing me.

One of the things Kirrin does really well in this story is show through tone how the character is feeling. You can hear the emotions. He also tells, but usually only to reinforce what he's already shown.

Oh! And, Kirrin does something a lot of short story writers don't do. He foreshadows! See if you can spot the end in the second scene!

The third scene doubles-down on the world-building and throws another dagger at your feet. The last bit is particularly bold and dark. It's probably my favorite part of the story, and that's because of the poignant detail used to show the main character's grief and anger.

I think if I had written this story, I'd have cut the fourth scene. So, my lesson to learn is that this fourth scene might "feel" unnecessary, but it isn't. It's an intimate moment that shows the stakes in stark clarity. It's also a try/fail scene. She is trying to have faith, but here is why she is failing.

Now we're at the two-thirds mark, and we get action. A slight setting change, a crisis that feels unrelated and almost random, but isn't. Note that she prays despite her lack of faith. That's a nice and honest touch. As someone who lives where it snows and gets cold, the descriptions of the path and the lake were realistic, and it made me think about a world where there were oases of heat. Kind of the opposite of an oasis in the desert, and that's a really cool concept.

I think the main character achieves a subtle agency just before the last scene that wasn't quite satisfying for me. If I'd been a beta-reader for this story, I'd have asked for that shift in thinking to be made clearer and louder, similar to how loud the character's doubts have been throughout the rest of the story. You ever see that clip of Christopher Reeve where he takes his glasses off and "becomes" Superman through only his body language? I wanted a similar moment before the last turn of this story.

There's no echo-back, but there is a feeling that the story continues on to another chapter. Action beyond the page.

This was a great read, and an even better tool to help me learn.

Thanks for reading!

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