Shaping a Story with Comparisons to Oregon Trail, the Game

oregontrailOnce upon a time, there was a naive writer who thought she could bend every story idea to her will. Everything is possible when you’re writing, she thought. There is no reason this can’t work. She struggled for years to turn a YA short story into an adult short story. There is a bigger market for adult short stories, you see. So, she wrote and wrote, threw her pen at walls, her notebook under her bed, and altogether abandoned the story for months at a time. She knew it wouldn’t be the same. She’d have to age the characters and give them adult problems. Stick them in an office instead of a high school, for instance. But it didn’t ring true. It wasn’t working. Once again, she found herself wondering what she could do differently. “Maybe it’s the tense,” she said, as she clutched at straws. After seven pages of present tense, her heart sank. It wasn’t the tense. Or not only the tense.

In a lull in her writing life, when no story seemed interesting enough to work on, she went back to the drawing board. She had to find a way to make it work. It was one of her favorite ideas. It was lively. It was funny. It was her in a nutshell. At this time, she read an article about a “new genre”—New Adult fiction. Hmm, she thought, that might be it. She researched this newfangled idea, this New Adult fiction, and found a lot of romance novels. She pouted, not at all pleased. After all, she didn’t write romance novels. oregon-trail-river-fordingAfter a day of sulking, she said, “Why do I have to write a romance novel? Why can’t my college-aged character go about her daily life? It’s not going to harm anyone.” She perked up and finally thought she might have found the perfect age. Right when she was about to get started, she arrived at another river to ford. She balked at the idea; after all, it was a treacherous thing to do in Oregon Trail. Shaking her head, she erased the image of her story suffering from dysentery. She had to keep moving. That’s how they discovered new worlds. So, taking a page out of the British Empire, she trudged ahead. She would find a way out of the wilderness before dysentery took her and her story to an early grave on the frontier. The morale was low, but there was a silver lining on every cloud.

After a day of pushing her way through a thick forest and muggy weather, she saw an opening in the trees. It was there before her. All she had to do was take a few more steps. With painstakingly slow movement, she made her way to the opening and took a deep breath as she stepped out into a clearing. A blast of wind knocked her over, at the same time knocking some sense into her. “Your story doesn’t have to be a short story or a novel. It can be in between. A novelette perhaps? Or maybe you prefer a novella?”

Her lips stretched into a wide grin. That was it. That was the problem. With her two big obstacles—age and length—out of her way, she could now sit down and write. She did so with flair and alacrity. Four pages in two days met her toothy-smile for toothy-smile. The morale was good, no dysentery in sight.

The End


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