I started to rethink my short story The Gladstone Barrier this week. I came up with several ideas that I think I can use to develop it into a longer and, hopefully, better story.
In some of my stories, I do have a lot of description of the people and the locations, but have very little in The Gladstone Barrier. It is very much a plot driven story. I think there a couple of good reasons to add more.
First, I can use it to develop the characters more. How they dress, how they move and how they present themselves all tell you something more about them. I think that my characters need that additional depth.
Second, I can use description to create a mood for each scene. A cramped room and a cosy room are physically the same thing, but the description creates a different feeling for the location that will affect readers in how they interpret what happens.
Bits of Business
I feel I need to add some little “bits of business” for my characters. I mean little things that he does that reveal something of his personality. A neat person will pick up loose papers on a desk and arrange them. A sloppy person won’t. I can use these to make the main character, Arthur Macdonald, easier to identify with. I would want to do the same for the minor characters, but not to same extent, since I want the focus on Arthur.
Along those lines, I want to rewrite the opening scene so that Arthur avoids the collision through his own actions. As it is now I don’t think that is clear. That would make him a stronger character and not just some one who is blowing in the wind.
Ling the Mentor
I intended the character Ling to be Arthur’s mentor. I thought that was clear in the story, but some people commented that I should make her his mentor, so I guess it isn’t that obvious. I would need to expand her role quite a bit.
Some people might think it is odd to have a woman as the mentor. The term mentor refers to a story from Greek mythology. The goddess Athena wanted to help Telemachus find his father Odysseus. She disguised herself as a man named Mentor and encouraged Telemachus to seek out his father. In her guise as Mentor, she travelled with him to provide guidance and advice. So, I think it makes perfect sense. Maybe I can use that parallel in the story.
Some of the comments I had about the story focussed on some technical details that they didn’t think I had right. I want to fix those, which will change the plot somewhat. Currently the boss assigns Arthur to do the priority project on short notice. That doesn’t leave him time to do all the consulting and hoop jumping that the project would normally involve.
For the rewrite, I think it would be better for him to take over the project at the last minute because the person who had done the work can’t complete it for some reason. This would put him in a position where he has to defend decisions that he was never involved with and doesn’t always agree with.
I also would like to add a subplot about Arthur and a girlfriend or maybe a wife. This would serve to round out his character. It also occurs to me that it would ensure that readers would realize that his relationship with Ling is not romantic. Maybe I can add other subplots, like a conflict between the priority project and the project he had been doing.
The Danger of Delay
I got quite enthusiastic about the rewrite, but I have so much else on my plate now that I have to put it off until later. I wish I could dive into it while my mind is still churning out ideas. I worry that if I leave it to later, that I will lose the inspiration. That happens some times, but usually I can pick it up.