Along for the Ride

In Search of the Perfect Story


Carol Foss



            In search of the ‘perfect’ story, some authors will use complex flow charts, others will index their ‘scenes’ then fill in the gaps to write their stories. I, on the other hand, and against all literary advice, will simply begin with the premise in mind, and let the characters and events write themselves. I’m just along for the ride. Of course, I may cause a few detours as I put my two cents worth in. Sometimes my characters will balk at my interference, and I have to make them go stand in the corner to cool off. And sometimes I feel like joining them. It isn't easy being a writer in search of the perfect story.

            So where does this elusive yarn come from? Well, it may spring from something as simple as a spilled cup of coffee, to a complex invention that will benefit or thwart mankind, depending on your mood, the weather, and perhaps carpal tunnel syndrome.

             Stories can come out of nowhere and everywhere, just begging to be written. They nudge, prod, and pester you until you have no choice but to submit just to get them to stop bugging you; or they may be elusive, tempting you with an almost sensual persuasion that you can hardly wait to set word to paper, or microchips, as the case may be.

            Speaking of microchips, computer software has revolutionized the way many authors get down to business. No more white-out staining your fingertips or dripping onto a typewriter platen. No more crumpled sheets of paper spilling up and over the wastebasket. We can edit any word, phrase, sentence, even paragraphs or an entire page in a heartbeat; delete, add, revise, cut, copy, and paste, so that the story will no doubt freeze on the screen out of sheer frustration from your continual delays.  But even the most temperamental of tales will agree once finished, that your honing and tightening loose ends, even the unsuspected ending at times, has made it a better story.  One that will be remembered, and not consigned to the cobwebs. Unless of course, you intend those cobwebs to be a subliminal sub plot.

            Some writers favor certain themes for their stories. One such theme common to a great deal of fan fiction, an unappreciated, yet just as valid venue for story telling as the most sought out best seller, (in my humble opinion), is the ever popular ‘hurt/comfort’ theme.

            Be careful, though, if  you use it in a series of stories. Jealousies between your characters will rear up their green eyed heads, and argue with you about whom you like best, making you long for a touch of comfort yourself, preferably the  ‘Southern Comfort’* variety.

             In addition, your loyal readers could soon begin to expect your protagonist  to get hurt and receive the inevitable kiss on the owie before they’ve even turned the page, making an otherwise great story a bit blasé.

                Punctuation, spelling, and correct tense also share  in your presentation. Nothing can match a typo for distracting your reader from the moment at hand. How embarrassing, your lead needing a physic instead of a psychic. Ah, but you have ‘Spell Check’ or some such program. Well, okay, they’re a big help, but remember even microchips make mistakes. Computerized spelling software is only as good as their programmers have made them. And some are not really very good at all. And what about acronyms, and  abbreviations?  When  your target audience is familiar with text messaging or  something that looks like a secret agent code, fine and dandy, however, ‘when in doubt, spell it out’. After all, one might wonder, is your heroine writing a letter that she’s ‘Laughing Out Loud’ after an evening’s interlude with her lover or wishing him ‘Lots Of Luck’.  

            But the most important part of the story is, after all, the ending. When you began you might not have decided if  the protagonist would win or not. While it won’t cheat your readers if he/she/it (you might be into monsters) doesn’t ride off into the sunset or win the jackpot, almost everyone prefers a happy ending over a sad one. But happy, sad, dramatic, or downright miserable (some stories require this – I don't mean your style of writing), if your readers haven’t tossed it into the closet or onto the bathroom shelf, you have the perfect story. After all, it's been read to the finish. And isn't that its primary goal of existence?

            It might not receive accolades, or even be known to your next door neighbor, but at least it will be remembered. Not to mention giving your characters a well deserved coffee break while they, and others in the wings waiting to be born, await your next grand venture into imagination. After all, it's only a story away.


*Southern Comfort – A popular blend of  spiced whiskey which originated in New Orleans.