Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Original Audrey" - by Tammy Brown

"Original Audrey" - by Tammy Brown

I was at OSC’s original Literary Boot Camp in 2000, and I was desperate for a story idea. To get into the class in the first place, I had submitted the first page to a story that I had never finished. Actually, I had never finished a story before.

I had some story ideas floating around in my head, but I didn’t have any idea as to how I could possibly write an entire story in a few days. Then, late one night, when I was trying to write a story that involved cloning, my mind started wandering. What if cloning really were possible? Would people clone their dead family members, themselves, who? It was at that point that I ran into a news story of the paparazzi going too far, and suddenly I knew what would happen.

The next step was to figure out who they would clone. It would be happening in the future, so it had to be someone with huge star power. Then the first line of the story, “Elvis Presley watched Audrey Hepburn eat her breakfast in front of the Tiffany’s window in the Caesar’s Palace Mall.” came into my head, and the rest wrote itself… almost.

Remember how I said that I had never finished a story before? It turned out I didn’t know how to, not effectively anyway. I worked at it most of the night, and finally, sleep deprived, I slapped on a very generic happy ending and turned the story in for critique.

The story received very high praise from almost everyone in the class, including OSC. At one point, he even guaranteed that with some small revisions it would one day be published, thus inflating my fragile writer’s ego for all time.

After boot camp, I immediately sent the story into F&SF, and it was almost as immediately rejected. The truth was that even though most people who read my story liked it well enough, it was ultimately unsatisfying. The slapped on ending didn’t provide any resolution or closure. I knew it, but I couldn’t seem to fix it.

Over the years since then, every time my writing skills would improve, I’d pull out the story and try a new ending. Each time, it got closer to what I wanted it to be, but it wasn’t quite there. Finally, after IGMS was announced, I dusted it off one more time and sent it in. Quite a while later, I got a response from Edmund saying that he liked the story, up until about page 14 and that the ending “felt like you had simply gotten tired of writing and thrown them together for the proverbial happy ending without any clues as to how either of them changed, grew, and developed into their new, true selves. It was rushed and incomplete.” Yikes! Yet, he also said that if I could fix these problems, he would consider including me in a future issue of IGMS.

He had called me on the carpet, and he was right. At the end of the story, even I as the writer, wasn’t sure about this couple. Had either of them changed? What would their future hold? If as the author, I didn’t know, how could I expect the reader to understand? So I sat down and gave myself an ultimatum, find the climax, find the resolution, or else. By now, I knew Audrey and Elvis like two intimate friends. I knew that Audrey need to break down her perfect façade, and that Elvis needed to be the person who did it. Then, as my mind began wandering, I saw Audrey, losing control in a dish of ice cream. I saw her face covered with tears and whipped topping and I saw Elvis, falling in love, for good.

The moral of the story? I should let my mind wander more often. That‘s when my ideas seem to come. In fact, while writing this essay, my mind started wandering again. I’ve started thinking about Audrey, and Elvis’s future. And you know what? I don’t think their story is over. In fact, I can guarantee that there are many adventures in store for them yet.

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