The Light Turned Red

I had lots of ideas about how the story could be expanded into a book.  I ended up with something that I would describe as more a vignette than a full-blown story because anything else would have made the story too long.  My main character had problems particular to her height that no one else would have if they weren’t a dwarf themselves.  She had married a “tall” man and doubted her decision.  Her perception of how a dwarf fit into our society controlled the story. 

The dwarf story evolved from a couple of paragraphs that I wrote in Fiction Techniques about a newly married woman jumping out of a truck at a red light in downtown Vegas to follow a group of men dressed up like Elvis.  If you’re thinking that the first line of the story is “The light turned red.” you’re absolutely right.  I had a lot of fun too, experimenting with two characters from southern Texaswhere my parents lived.  The dialogue that I used for the two characters was full of twang and hot sauce and references to being a short-order cook and The Flamingo in Las Vegas.   

The class was more receptive to this story I think mainly because it was more upbeat.  Someone did talk about an article she’d read in the New Yorker and how I’d strayed from the facts.  I did use material from the same article to create a café in the story, but interpreted some of the material in a different way from the student who quoted the article.

That question from the previous chapter was popping up again.  Is it okay to use “real” material?  I decided that it didn’t matter if I used the café from the article that seemed to fit so perfectly with my character.  I couldn’t resist and didn’t think it would be an issue because I’d been faithful to the details outlined in the article except that I interpreted a “slower pace” of business in the café as meaning that a waitress would actually have time to talk to the customers. 

My fellow student didn’t think that the waitress would’ve had that extra time and made a point of complaining about my using the article.  I guess there’s always going to be someone who wants to try and find a flaw in whatever we write.   

I would like to think that using ideas from a New Yorker article about a Vegas café are what people are talking about when they say write what you know.  Writing strictly from my own experiences has always seemed to be too confining.  I like the idea of creating as many different characters as I can, all of them totally fictional.  And even if my settings are based on bits and pieces of other places, up to that point I had used mostly fictional composites.


About marystojak

Mary Stojak has published numerous short stories, her latest will be published September 28th in Mystery Weekly.
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