Story up at Mysterion

I’m very happy to announce that my story “This Is the Way the Prayer Ends” is now up at Mysterion!

This story began life as a one-act play. I don’t remember the exact impetus for changing it to prose. It might have been me thinking about how the production costs to mount the play would likely be too prohibitive given its short length (short for a play, at least). It also might have been because I had recently tried the opposite approach—turning my short story “Ghost Writer to the Dead” into a play—and wanted to see what I could learn from going the other direction.

When I turned “Ghost Writer to the Dead” into a play, I couldn’t just strip the story down to the dialogue and call it a day. Stripping out a lot of the pretty prose was part of the process, yes, but doing that laid the dialogue bare and made me re-evaluate how well that dialogue was doing its job when separated from the narrative supports of a short story. I had to consider which story elements could or should be done differently to take advantage of the visual and aural elements of the theater. I had to consider which details were important to include in the scene description and stage directions while also leaving room for a director, cast, and crew to bring their own vision and interpretation to the script.

Going the opposite direction with “This is the Way the Prayer Ends” was a much different experience. Turning the script into prose was like working from a highly detailed outline—not something I do very often with short fiction. (Hi, my name is Barb, and I’m usually a pantser.) The bones were there; I just needed to flesh out the bits between the dialogue. Instead of leaving room for a play’s cast and crew to bring their respective takes to the table, I had to be the cast and crew. It was up to me to build the props and scenery with words instead of with wood and tools and paint. Lighting, sound effects, costumes—all up to me to detail on the page. It was up to me to make choices about how the characters spoke and moved, and how they felt and reacted at any given moment.

Both experiments were worthwhile, not only for the pieces that resulted, but because of the new perspective the process gave me on the two formats. It was a really hands-on way to discover which techniques work in both play and prose and where your approach as a writer needs to change.

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