Monday, June 05, 2006

Breaking the rule

Submissions. I've been churning out submissions for every finished short story I have. May I say that I hate companies that won't except simultaneous submissions(the same story sent to more than one company at a time). I have to sit and wait three months for them to tell me my story sucks before I can send it to someone else. Fabulous. I often think I should just send it to other companies anyway. It's not like anyone's going to publish it, and it's even less likely two companies would, but I know the one time I do it I'll get screwed over for it because that, my friends, is how it works. So when a story is ready to go, I send it to all companies that accept simultaneous submissions, once they've all rejected it, I send it out to the non-accepters one-by-one.

I'm trying to put the finishing touches on another story so that I can start shipping that one out. I have to say I'm thinking of breaking a rule. Generally, in stories told in first person, the person telling the story shouldn't die because then who's telling the story. I, however want the character to die at the end. The last line of the story will be the line they have while they are about to die, their last thought. Is that even technically breaking the rule? I don't really think so. Besides even if they did die in the middle couldn't they be telling the story from the after-life. Wouldn't that be qualified as experimental, not wrong? If no one breaks the rules then aren't we just going to find the same old stuff over again?
My former writing professor told me I couldn't do it when I wrote the story for class. Now that I'm revising it I think it works better the way I had it, but what if every publisher/editor thinks the same way he does?


D.B. Echo said...

Two words: Anne Frank.

Amy Tan just wrote "Saving Fish From Drowning" in which the main character is dead throughout. Another example of such a technique is "The Lovely Bones".

Both "American Beauty" and "Desperate Housewives" are narrated by dead characters - "American Beauty" is done so well that you are shocked and surprised when Kevin Spacey is killed near the end of the movie, despite the fact that you are told from the beginning that he is dead.

Arthur C. Clarke's "Transit of Earth" is a "Dying Astronaut" story, considered a whole class of Science Fiction stories - told as a recorded journal that ends just before his death. I don't think "The Cold Equations" is told in the first person, but it damned well could be - the impact of the death of the main character stays with you. I think John Fowle's "The Collector" is told in part in the first person by the victim of a murderer, ending with her death - I never read it, but I read an analysis of it in Maxim magazine, which pointed out that this is a favorite book of serial killers everywhere.

Finally, there is Alfred Bester's "Fondly Fahrenheit", with its ever-shifting point of view, which may or may not have ended with the death of one of the two main characters.

If you're writing from the point of view of a dead character, you have to agree on some rules. Omniscient? Semi-omniscient? If the character is telling the story but dies at the end, how is the story being told? A journal that ends abruptly? A "Home By The Sea" retelling (as we relive our lives in what we tell you)? Some combination? Whatever you choose, take some solace in the fact that someone has probably tried the technique before, so nothing is too outrageous or avant-garde.

Ashley said...

I almost put Desperate Housewives in as an example and I could not remember what American Beauty was called.
I didn't even think of the other examples.

Thanks for the insightfulness.