Them Bones, Them Bones,
Them Dry Bones
Katherine Allen has been signed on for an apprenticeship as a Review Editor. Judging by the talent she’s displayed in the first round of tutorials, she may one day become a big-city Editor in Chief — when she’s not out on book tours of her own! It will be a long road with a lot of turnings: there’s not just a lot to learn, there’s no end to it. But that’s the glory of it, and it’s very enjoyable and worthwhile. Please remember us when you’re rich and famous, Katherine!
The “tutorials” are divided into three main categories: Do certain stories and poems meet our guidelines? What do we do with borderline cases? And, finally, a short one: format a text sent by a contributor who has not read our Style Manual. That last will be the least enjoyable and the biggest headache, but it has to be done.
The first unit — “Does this submission meet our guidelines?” — contains little traps. Some of the sample texts are good, some aren’t. Others are well written but are not stories. Jerry’s much-referenced editorial “Building Stories,” in issue 114, deals with that very problem. We took up the theme again in Challenge 143, “Untold Tales.”
But as I like to say, things go in cycles. Our guidelines and editorial practice make it clear that while we appreciate glorious middles, stories need a beginning and an ending, too. And that seems to run up against an economy of time. “Okay,” writers seem to say, “here’s a beginning and an ending” — but the middle suffers. And that takes us from the pillar of the vignette to the post of the scenario.
Vignettes are “slices of life”; they’re like photographs or still-life paintings, whereas a story is like a film. Of course, a story need not be primarily visual: before Molière invented stage blocking, the 17th-century French classical theater amounted to what we would call radio plays today. The fancy costumes were a visual treat, but not essential.
Scenarios are basically story outlines; they’re like skeletons with little connective tissue, muscles or skin. Challenge 143 points out that Sergio Bayona’s “Grandfather’s Trip” is a scenario: it has a lot of interesting ideas begging to be “fleshed out” in a larger story. In this issue, Gareth D. Jones’ “Devotion” is a complete story. However, for all its action we still have questions: Where is Darrien, exactly; what do his surroundings look like? Who is he? What are his personal motivations? As it stands, he is little more than a very advanced pawn in a noisy but vague political power struggle.
The Challenge, then, is to take inspiration from Gareth’s idea:
Condense “Devotion” into a radio play, one that gives us insight into Darrien’s motivation and tells us who he really is. Possible model: William Spear’s “Dead Men Don’t Party, in issue 138, although a formal script isn’t necessary.
Expand “Devotion” by adding color, presumably by concentrating on description and settings. Possible models: Danielle Parker’s “Thief of Joy and Light,” in issues 138-142 (especially for touch and smell) or, for visual effects, R D Larson’s “A Benign and Archaic Afterthought,” in issue 139.
You see, we want our contributors to remember us when they become rich and famous, too.
Copyright © 2005 by Bewildering Stories
What is a Bewildering Stories Challenge?