Flatline — Letting a story go

The story was easy to fall in love with.  It had a lovely setting, full of lush language and subtle imagery. The characters were well grounded, aware of their histories and intentions, with a zesty conflict to set the whole plot in motion. We even “met cute” –the story and I colliding mid-run.  I desperately wished I had my writing pad with me, afraid I’d never be able to find the story again.  I needn’t have worried–it found me.

We had chemistry, staying power.  We discussed going public with our relationship, maybe entering a contest.  We spent many hours together, working towards our happy ending. Suddenly, without any warning, the story faltered.

I tried to resurrect it several times, infusing it with new words, removing  prose that weighed it down, kept it from breathing.  I cajoled it with humor, promises of all the things we could accomplish, if it would just hang on a little longer.

“I’ve put in some new dialogue, do you like that? You’re a great story.  I know we’d be amazing together.  You won’t die.  You can’t. I won’t let you.”

The story would rally, stumble forward for a few more lines, but before long it would roll on its side and beg me to leave it alone and let it die in peace.  I so sure this story was the one.  It had been there, waiting for me to pay attention.  I just didn’t have the time or energy, until it found a way to push through the static, begging to be heard. Why did it have to die now, when were were finally together?

My fingers pounded the keys, furiously typing words that I didn’t really feel. “Don’t you dare even think of dying on me.  Look how much work I’ve put into this!  Haven’t I done everything for you?  Given up my time and energy for you?  You owe it to me, you do.”

“Get as angry as you want,” the story sighed. “It won’t change anything.  I just don’t feel it anymore.”

I begged for it to hang in there just a little longer.  I could fix things, I could change.  I could be more flexible, less resistant.   “Please don’t die. Do it for me.  Don’t leave me. If you stay with me, I’ll figure something out, I will.  I’m writer, you know.  I can do that sort of thing.”

“I’m sorry,” it said “it’s too late. It’s not you, it’s me.” Why does everyone think that makes it better?  In a faltering voice, weary and accepting, it said “Promise me you’ll move on.”

I sobbed. “Don’t say that!”  How could it leave just when I needed it so. “I’ll never find another story like you.  Never.  Sure, I’ll find  other stories, maybe have a laugh or two, but they won’t be you.  There is only one you.”

The story smiled on last time. “I will always be with you.  In here.”

“My heart?”  Maybe there was hope.  Another time, another place.

“No idiot. Your hard drive.  When you figure out what killed me, come back.”

“Like cryogenics?  I can just thaw you out?”

The story chuckled. “Well maybe I’m gone in this form, but later, when you’re writing something else there will be a scene with a father and a daughter.”

“Are they in a boat?” I asked.

The story sighed with exhaustion.  “Maybe, maybe not.  But you’ll remember our time together.”

“So it’s not farewell, it’s see you later?”

It nodded. “It’s time to let go.  When you least expect it, you’ll see me there.”

I whispered goodbye as I closed the folder. “I’m counting on it.”

Words by J. B. Everett

12 comments on “Flatline — Letting a story go

  1. TheOthers1 says:

    LOL!! This… This cracked me up. Been there, felt this. Your telling is perfect. Love it.

  2. hiyacynthia says:

    Oh, Jeannine! There’s your contest entry, right there! What a well written piece. I just loved it! The way you weaved it into a relationship so keenly was spot-on. All writers have felt this, but you just said it best. Congratulations on a great piece of work. Go submit this somewhere and win something! Or write a book about letting your book die! Do something with this besides leave it on your blog, I implore you. :0)

  3. Sarav says:

    I’m having that conversation with a story right now–only it’s more me, saying “But I’m bored with you…” Gotta get the mojo going again, somehow. There’s always treasures even in abandoned writing–good luck!

  4. What Hiyacynthia said!! We’ve all been there, but most of us haven’t expressed it so eloquently.

  5. You never know when they’ll call you back. Fun post.

  6. muddykinzer says:

    Hilarious! I loved this!

  7. It’s so weird, but I read through this the first time after I had a dream about aliens bringing out chest paddles for my heart. I’ve been beating my head against the wall trying to get through re-writes of a novel I’ve been working on for years. So I thought seeing your post after my dream was a sign for me to say goodnight to my story. Now that I’ve had some time to think it over though, I’m still re-writing. Ugh. If nothing else, it’s a learning process.

    • It’s so hard, reworking and editing. Writing a story is like falling in love for me, that heady, can’t-wait-to-see-you buzz. I write best in that mode. When I edit, it’s better if the story and I have decided just to be good friends. I can see it’s flaws more clearly and choose to keep the best parts of our relationship intact while jettisoning that which isn’t working. I keep everything, though. My rejected prose has often found its way into other relationships 🙂

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