1. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    Want to be subtle

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ashley Bird, Jan 24, 2018.

    Hi,
    I've just finished a 1st draft of a short story and I'm not happy with it. I'll give a quick rundown of the story and explain what I'm having trouble with and hopefully one of you lovely peope can give some advice.

    It starts in a park with the protagonist setting up for a picnic.

    His girlfriend of a year arrives and they chat and eat and what not.

    The talk turns to kids and protag admits that he is infertile.

    It gets awkward and the protag has a scuffle with a stranger.

    That is obviously a very basic overview.

    My problem is I don't want the protag to have to say he can't have kids, I've done the 1st draft like that after spending ages trying to figure out how to show that he is infertile and not moving forward.

    Anyone have any ideas how I could show this to the reader without having to admit it to the protags girlfriend?

    Cheers
     
  2. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Contributor

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    When he's not with the girlfriend he receives an envelope or phone call with test results. It's done all the time on TV: someone thinks they're either sick or infertile, and it turns out to be the opposite. Happens in real life, too.
     
  3. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    I want the story to just be a snap shot of this moment in time so I'm trying to avoid back story, flashbacks and that sort of thing. Thanks though.

    I don't even mind if it is not plainly obvious that he can't have kids just enough so it could be noticed if paying attention. I've done stuff like turning his back on kids in a playground and trying to avoid talking about kids. The fight at the end is meant to be the protag over compensating but I'm not sure it comes across.
     
  4. samgallenberger

    samgallenberger Member

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    Maybe do something like have them change the conversation immediately when the subject turns to kids? Or they could be noticeably uncomfortable when the subject comes up?
     
  5. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    That was my thinking. Was just concerned it could be mistaken for the cliched male commitment issues thing.
     
  6. samgallenberger

    samgallenberger Member

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    I suppose it depends where you are in the story. If this is the beginning I'd tend to agree with you that it may be difficult to make that connection. If you have already explored their relationship a bit more and shown that he has no issues with commitment it could work a little better.
     
  7. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    He had neuroblastoma as a child and he was told the treatment would make him infertile.

    Having them talk about it works okay but I don't want it to seem like the scuffle happens just because he is angry, it's meant to be the MC trying to prove to himself (and to her i guess) that he is still "manly".

    I like doing the subtle thing in stories but in this case I think being open about it might be the best choice after all.

    Thanks for your help.
     
  8. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    What's the problem with stating he can't have kids somewhere in the story? If it's important to the story, I'm not sure how subtle you really want to be with this. You mention that you want it to be something readers paying attention would pick up on, but I say don't make these harder for them or you. Good stories don't need tricks or hidden meaning.
     
  9. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    The reason I wanted to do it is pretty much just what I like to read, no other reason. I really like stories that leave you with a vague sense of things rather than outright telling you.

    In this case though it seems to be better just to have the characters talk about it.

    I have a habit of getting stuck in a mindset and will spend way too long trying to force something when there are better ways.

    That's why I came on here and I'm glad I did because I think you lot have saved me from stubbornly sticking to it and ending up with a poorer story. Clarity is best after all.

    Thanks again.
     
  10. Odile_Blud

    Odile_Blud Active Member

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    I read a wonderful short story called "Hill's Like White Elephants". The whole story was two characters discussing abortion, and that went right over my head the first time I read it. The story is told in objective 3rd person, and the author was very clever in his usage of metaphors and symbolism that the abortion topic was subtle to the point you didn't even notice it upon reading it. Maybe check that short story out if you haven't. It may give you some ideas.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2018
    Homer Potvin likes this.
  11. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    Hemingway is quality and that is an amazing story. I love his dialogue, always mimics real speech well.
     
  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin Get off my Balzac... Staff Contributor

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    That's exactly what jumped into my mind too. I think the difference, though, is that abortion is more ubiquitous and "hot button" in both life and literature. I think infertility, at least in a man, will be a much tougher inference for the reader to make when stacked against the more typical commitment or aversion to children issues.
     
  13. Ashley Bird

    Ashley Bird Member

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    I agre
    I agree and I don't want to
    I agree. I tried to do it a few ways and every time, when I read it back, it just looked like he didn't want to have kids. I really don't want this because the male commitment thing is a giant cliche.

    Best to avoid confusion and keep in the dialogue I think.
     
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Her: OMG, kids! I can't wait to have some.
    Him: Or we could get a puppy.

    To be honest, though, I would seriously doubt they would have that talk at a park. Parks have people and most dudes I know wouldn't want to be talking about their manhood (or more specifically their perceived lack thereof) somewhere where people could overhear and cast their judgmental scorn upon them. Not to mention he probably already knows how she feels about kids and is probably in some kind of irrational way thinking that if he can't give her kids, then she'll go find someone who can. So he's probably already trying to build up his courage for that. I fit were me personally I would have the conversation come up, he gets uncomfortable and wants to change the subject and she misinterprets it as he doesn't want kids/Isn't taking the relationship seriously, they argue, then they separate. Now he's angry and frustrated as well as emasculated. But not my story.
     

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