Last night, I completed my solid draft of, "Petty Theft," one of the overhaul / major revision stories I was talking about in the last post. I'll edit it today and, if generally satisfied, let Rose hack away at it, and then hopefully have it prepped for submission as a 2500 - 3000 word crime story on Monday.
It's been an interesting experience working on this. It's partly editing for style and content, of course. It's partly proofing my high school grammar (which wasn't bad). But a lot of it is writing from scratch. I think on pure word count I went from 1700 in the original to 2500 at the end of last night's draft. Way more than 800 of the words are brand new, though.
I found myself using the original version of the story almost as a narrative outline. "Okay, here's plot point one, here's plot point two, here's the crescendo..." I kept most of the original dialogue -- which was sparse in this story, anyway. I kept a few particularly clever turns of phrase (LOL!). But mostly it's a whole new story.
The original story was part of a group of stories that were quite literally my attempt to answer a self-administered writing challenge, "How can you write a short story that reads like watching an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents?" That will largely be true still when they have all been redone, but there's a difference. What originally interested me about those stories were the twists and turns of the plot itself. At this point in my life and in my development as a writer, I am far more interested in the main character's psychology as it is twisted and turned by the plot.
To accomplish this shift in focus for "Petty Theft," I shifted the POV from third-person to first. This allowed me not only to introduce more interesting internal monologue, but also to present the psychosis of the MC more coherently. When you're stuck with describing an unbalanced person from the outside, you run the risk of brushing unintentionally up against humor and satire. When you can show it from the inside, it seems more natural to the character and the balance shifts a little more toward disturbing, away from comic.
The real challenge was, of course, maintaining the original essence or soul of the story. I want to make sure I didn't only maintain the plot, but a lot of the spirit. I want a new angle on the original story, not an entirely different piece. That's what I'll be looking for when I edit today!