Books & Flim

Kate Chopin, “Smashing Pumpkins,” and Leaving the Nest.

Kate Chopin

Over the course of the last couple of nights I’ve been questioning whether the short story I’m working is ready to be released into the world. I’ve played with its tightness and have guessed as to whether or not it’s where I want it to be. If you’re struggling with editing and wondering about a piece’s readiness factor as I am, for a little inspiration, turn to Kate Chopin’s super short story called “The Story of an Hour.” It’ll straighten you out in no time. (http://www.pbs.org/katechopin/library/storyofanhour.html)

The piece was written in 1894, but don’t let that prevent you from reading this three-page masterpiece if you haven’t tackled it already. Chopin tells a complete story in a short amount of time through descriptive details, character facial expressions, body language, short dialogue and action; it unfolds rapidly and Chopin swiftly sweeps you up into her tale. I find I return to it constantly as a great literary source as it showcases the ability to be concise and cohesive when writing. I love to examine the words that mark these pages and imagine what she may possibly have left out, as well. Ultimately, there is no need for this story to be longer; it could quite possibly be—do I dare say it?—perfect. (Yes, I’ve said it).

I’ve revamped a short story I’m working on called “Smashing Pumpkins” several times. I’ve cut it, reworked it, cut it again, edited it, rewritten it, and played with it some more. So where is it now, you ask? It’s sitting, patiently waiting for me to decide whether it can be called, with certainty, complete.

When did Chopin know her story was ready to leave the nest? How did she know for certain it was ready to “go out there?” If only a story could talk to us or ding like an oven timer and let us know it’s ready. Fini. Complete. “Beep,” it could say. “I’m done now.”

Who can say for sure because there is always a writing compulsion to tweak and tweak and tweak some more, but I think I am ready to mark “Smashing Pumpkins” as complete. I think it may be time.

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