When I was acting, I spent a lot of time watching people. You want to see how people shop and how they walk. What they do when they think other people aren’t looking.
As a writer, I find myself wondering ‘why’ people do what they do. And damn do I end up with a lot of ‘why’s.’
Right now, I have this short story, I call it Futility in the Fall. Basically, I wanted to look at Rick and Matty through the eyes of a complete stranger, and for some reason, I chose for them to have a bad day. They don’t save the girl. They are a few minutes too late.
It just sort of evolved, but I was intrigued by the idea that sometimes, no matter how well you plan and what you do, bad things happen.
And people are very, very confused by this.
I mean, I get it, more or less. You read a story about monsters and monster hunters, and you expect them to win. But they don’t, this time. I have had people outright say that they’re bumbling incompetents (which I took as me needing to clarify, but still…).
Read a critique today, very fair, full of good advice, but once again, the ending seemed to confuse the writer. “You have the mom just fall into a strangers arms, and then nothing happens.”
And yeah, it’s been my experience that people in mourning get hugs from strangers, especially women. Especially if that stranger knew the deceased. And ‘nothing happens’ because there is nothing to do. The girl is dead. All the other players have left to do is mourn and learn to live with it.
But I think this reaction is another example of ‘default’ thinking. I see that a lot. When people read characters are ‘default’ white, male, and straight unless the narrative goes out of the way to tell you different.
And this ‘default’ thinking can lead to some hilarious blind spots. Like I can say that ‘Matty’s break up with Dean had set the werewolf back three years,’ and yet until Matty says ‘I miss him’ some people are unaware that Dean is a guy. A blind spot which usually leads to a comment that reads, ‘I’m not against gay people or anything, but you should make the fact that Matty’s gay more obvious. It confused me at first.’
Which leads me to wonder, how much more obvious can I be? Does his name need an asterisk so you can scroll down to the bottom and see a footnote that reads, “Matty is GAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” in flashing rainbow colors?
But back to my dead girl. I’m not sure what else to do with this short. Like, I can’t force people to understand the point of the story, and I can’t make it any more obvious.
I mean I literally have this exchange:
The short man stood, placed his rose on the bench, and sighed. “C’mon, man, you did your best.”
The blond man shook his head. “My best wasn’t good enough.”
The other man stared off into the trees. “Look, you can do everything right, and sometimes…” he shrugged. “Sometimes life just sucks.”
And people still think that ending doesn’t make any sense.
It’s not everybody. Quite a number of people got the ending, and helped me to clarify the story, but it’s a surprising amount who question the reasoning.
Nobody likes a no-win scenario as one very helpful critique pointed out.
(Seriously, that critquiter was gold. He’s the one who explained to me what was going on with my uneven critiques.) Still, I can’t help but marvel at the blind spot.