Killer Year–The Class of 2007

Cringe Factor
December 14, 2006, 6:56 pm
Filed under: Dave White, Killer Year Members

So a few weeks ago in my class I presented a lesson on where ideas come from. I read a few of my stories to them and we discussed where I got the ideas for them.

The first story I read–before my class started calling me a homicidal maniac for this one–I read them Closure. Now I think I can say without reservations that “Closure” is the story that put me on the map. It won a Derringer. It made me lots of friends.

And reading it to my students for the first time in years, I realized something.

I hate it.

I like the idea of “Closure.” The plotlines, the characters, and so on. But it could be 1,000 words shorter. It could be 1,000 times tighter. And I think that would make the story even more powerful. I remember sitting down to write the story and saying “Okay, I want to write a September 11th story without every putting the phrase 9/11 into the story.” To me, that was the idea of subtle. Now I think I could strip it down even more so.

There’s a point where two cops call Omar a “sand nigger.” I wanted to show that even our “heroes” from that day were fallible. But now it just rubs me as wrong. Too over the top.

As I go back through my older stories, I find that happens a lot. I really cringe at the way I wrote back then. I overwrote. There’s too much description. There’s too much flower. There’s not enough action. And some of the turns of phrase are really bad.

But I wrote and published my first Donne story at age 20. And “Closure” is a damn good story for a 22 year old.

Is WHEN ONE MAN DIES better? I hope so.

I think each of my stories have progressively gotten better in terms of the writing style and word choice. I can say more by saying less.

But still, I cringe at the old stuff.

And I’m sure years from now I’ll cringe at WHEN ONE MAN DIES too.

5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Naw, when they start paying you the big bucks, you don’t have to worry about cringing. Still, an interesting thought. I hope we all can look back on our early work and see how far we’ve come.

Comment by killeryear

I didn’t publish my first stories until age 50 and I also cringe when I read them for much the same reasons. Why didn’t the editors say cut a thousand words out of this? Inexperience is not just a function of age but more of …”inexperience.”

Comment by Patti Abbott

My first novel was “Moby Dick in Space.” Seriously. I thought I was brilliant.

Comment by Bill Cameron

I think that some of your later stories – especially the third-person Donnes – are better, but I’m not sure you’ll ever write a more powerful story than “Closure”.

Comment by Graham

It is better.

Comment by Guyot

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