Totaled: the story behind the story

ETA: Galaxy’s Edge has re-released TOTALED on their website.

A few years ago, my sister was in a serious car accident with her two boys in the car. It was raining, and she hydroplaned on standing water that had pooled in the low spot of a cloverleaf on-ramp.  Her Ford Explorer got tangled up in the gap between a truck and a trailer, then she skidded off the road into a tree. Nobody was injured, but the accident totaled her Explorer.

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Totaled, by Kary English

The totaled car got me thinking. What if a person could be totaled? What if medical expenses could be reckoned against earning potential the way repair costs are weighed against the value of car? It’s a dystopian question about trying to determine the value of a human life in dollars and cents.

Then my writing mentor, David Farland, nearly lost his son in a longboarding accident. Ben’s recovery has been little short of miraculous, but the medical expenses almost bankrupted Dave. That brought me back to the essential tension between health insurance and the value of a human life. The story doesn’t answer the question; it engages the question.

But what about the speculative element? It’s not a sci-fi story without a speculative element! My geeky love of all things SF goes back to the Golden Era when brains in jars tottered around on spidery, metal legs. Huzzah! Spec element acquired! TOTALED would be a brain in a jar story.

Sonicated microparticle oxygenation (say it three times fast!) is a real thing that’s already saving lives, though I advanced the technology far beyond what’s possible today. I also know a thing or two about cognitive science and fMRIs, so it wasn’t too difficult to weave those things together. No, the difficult thing was something else entirely.

I’d been invited to submit a story to Mike Resnick’s Galaxy’s Edge, and he’d given me a limit of 4,000 words. 4k? Ouch. My natural length for shorts is nearly double that, but I bit the bullet and wrote the story in exactly 4,000 words. Success? Nope. The story was flawed, but I couldn’t put my finger on why. Frustrated, I shipped it off to Writers of the Future for a cooling off period. It earned an Honorable Mention, a low showing for me after a semi and two finalists, so while I’m not knocking HMs, mine confirmed for me that the story was broken. Fortunately, now I knew why. The story had to be longer, and Maggie’s decline needed to be more visible and more poignant.

Cackling like a mad scientist, I cracked the story open and added a thousand words to the second half. Writing Maggie’s decline was difficult and intricate, like placing tiles in a mosaic. Each word had to be exactly right or the technique I was using would look like a jumble of typos and bad grammar instead of a deliberate device. I’d say more, but I’m avoiding spoilers. Suffice it to say that Maggie’s decline is the most difficult thing I’ve ever written.

Satisfied with my work, I stitched the patient back up and sent it off to Mike, fervently hoping that I hadn’t earned myself an auto-reject by exceeding his wordcount. I got my answer in just a few days. Mike loved TOTALED, and he said such nice things about it at the V30 Writers of the Future reception that I had to excuse myself to go cry in the ladies’ room.

So there you have it, the story behind the story.

 

Dear WOTF Judges: Please Secure Your Socks

Dear WOTF Judges: Please Secure Your Socks

Even if I’m never WOTF there as a winner, attending the Writers of the Future awards ceremony will be one of the high Wholesale Miami Dolphins Jerseys points of my life. I could tell you to about the high production values, the evocative and gasp-worthy dances, the inspiring speeches and the kiss, kiss, bling, bling of the Hollywood red carpet atmosphere, but in truth, those are secondary to the event’s effect on me as a writer.  This event lit a fire in my belly the likes of which I cannot believe.

I’ve been writing full-time for awhile now, mostly private client, non-fiction stuff. But my goal has been to transition to fiction, and like the good Bromo Jane Austen, to earn my zich living from my pen. When non-fiction pays the bills, it’s easy to let fiction slide, to sigh and plod through another assignment while fiction sits lonely in my head. Well, no more.

I’ve never been competitive in the sense of wanting to vanquish others for the sake of a prize. Doing my personal best has always been good enough for me.  Now, however, I am consumed with ambition for WOTF.

Competition? Not so much.

Ambition? Hell, yeah!

I don’t just want to write a good story and hope it places. I cheap nfl jerseys want to blow the Getriebe? thing out of the water and knock the judges’ socks into high orbit. From here on out, I am gunning for Gold.

So, my dear judges, you have been warned. wholesale jerseys Please secure your socks.

 

P.S. What’s that? You’re only here for the sock garters?  Here Dango they are: SWANclothing

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