Why you may need to implode your story

One perk of being married to someone in construction management is getting to witness the different phases of building a building. I have been to ground breakings, looked down gigantic holes at poured footings and walked through completed buildings noting unfinished punch-list items before the final walk-through.  All the while learning  the lingo and gaining enough knowledge to be dangerous.

Sunday, I got to watch the implosion of the 14-story Georgia Archive building. The boom of the explosives followed by the collapsing of the building is oddly exhilarating and a little frightening.

Afterwards, I sat in as my husband and his colleagues watched several videos  of the implosion and debriefed. It was fascinating to learn that every step of the 15 seconds process was expected and accounted for, including which way the building fell. It got me to thinking about how imploding our writing may be the very thing we need to build a better story.

As a writer, it’s important to consider the structure of your piece. There are times when the current form doesn’t accurately frame or support the ideas. It may be necessary to implode the whole thing to build a better structure.

One of the witnesses to the implosion Sunday noted during an interview that he didn’t see why they had to tear it down. The witness wasn’t aware that the building was no longer structurally sound or that the state plans to make better use of the land by building a new courthouse complex on the lot.

We might feel the same resistance to tearing down our story, especially if we spent a lot time working on the it. We get attached to our own words, even going as far to call them our ‘babies’.  But sometimes even our best ideas need an overhaul, which may mean blowing the whole thing up.

I recently ran across this very problem while working on the memoir I’m writing about losing my son. Despite the several hours of work, I realized simple revision isn’t going to be enough to savage one of the chapters. It needed to be imploded. That means objectively examining the structure and content to determine why it isn’t working. Then teasing out anything salvageable, which may require thinking about the subject from a different perspective.

Years ago, I wrote a short story about woman who cooks her husband this wonderful dinner the night before she leaves him. The story was written from the perspective of the woman. And not to toot my own horn, but I thought it was a damn good story. Well, unfortunately I was in the minority. A group of writers in one writing workshop thought the protagonist was a bitch for leaving her hard-working husband. For years, I held on to the belief that they just didn’t understand her and continued to submit the story to various literary magazines. Needless to say, not one magazine or journal accepted it. Then a group of writers, who I trusted and respected, suggested I examine the structure and rewrite the story.

I resisted the idea at first, because I didn’t want to destroy what was there. But it had to be done. I looked at the story from the husband’s perspective, which added more texture. I changed the name and resubmitted it to various publications. After a few more rejections, it was published by Mused BellaOnline Literary Review [Read “A Fresh Start”].

Perhaps the story would have found a home in its original form, but the action of imploding my work helped me to grow as a writer. Now I’m not afraid to completely re-think a piece. I see it as playing with the ideas and don’t feel any pressure to get it right.  If it doesn’t work, I try something else.

Fortunately, writing differs from construction in that we can always go back to the way things used to be thanks to wonders of technology. But more often than not, we end up with a stronger and more well-written piece.

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Why you may need to implode your story

  1. Just last week I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’, and (synchronicity) she has something to say on this subject too – if you’re interested, see “Part V – Trust” the bit titled “Lighten Up”.
    It’s one of the things I find the hardest about writing, though. Once imagined, I find it hard to re-imagine.

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