Following up the threads

I attended an Arnold Zable workshop last year. Two things that remain with me from that workshop (I'm happy if I walk away from a workshop with two 'brain stickies'):
  1. Every story (short or long) has a hump that you need to push through so you can get to the end. 
  2. Sometimes you've already set up in the beginning of a story much more than you think. Sometimes you don't see it and that's when you need to retrace your steps, look carefully and follow up the leads or threads that you've already set up.

In early 2011 I began a story (Working Title, 'The Wedding') in which a guy flew from Sydney to Darwin to be best man at his friend's wedding. I went back to this story several times over the next 18 months. What Arnold said I took to be true - I was having trouble finishing the story but I knew the leads were already in there somewhere.

Then the Fiji retreat got cancelled. So I set myself some writing goals for the week which, I'm happy to say, I achieved. One of them was to finish 'The Wedding', only now it was called 'Looking for Mr Jackman', a story about the blurring of power and identity in the search for an ideal. Zable was right - the threads were there. In the early part of the story there was a trio of girls who mobbed a Hugh Jackman look alike (Dan) at the airport - they ended up being the key to unlocking the whole story. Toward the end of the story they reappeared out of the blue & it made perfect sense:

... The girls from the airport had brought a mob of kids with them. They all stood at Adie’s front door either carrying or wearing Hugh Jackman merchandise. Freckles, standing solid at the front, hugged a CD player plastered with Hugh Jackman stickers.

‘We’re looking for Mr Jackman,’ she said before Adie could say anything.

‘Well, he isn’t here,’ said Adie and tried shutting the door. The entire mob moved in on her. The girl with the braces held the hands of two small boys who wore dirty, disposable nappies and looked like they might bite. Adie had a sudden impulse to run away.

‘Don’t be selfish,’ said Freckles. ‘We know he’s here alright.’

‘He’s not yours, you know,’ said Braces. Her t-shirt read: IT’S A MUTANT THING. YOU WOULDN’T GET IT.

‘Let us in or we’ll use our super powers against you,’ said the smaller of the two small boys. Adie was surprised. He didn’t look old enough to talk.

‘Or I’ll call the media,’ said Freckles brandishing her phone. ‘Channel 10.’

‘You’ve got the wrong person,’ said Adie. ‘You only think he’s Hugh Jackman. Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you? He does look a lot like Mr Jackman. But it’s a case of mistaken identity. We all make mistakes. Even me. I’ve probably made more mistakes than you because I’m older. Ha ha. But it’s what we learn from those mistakes. That’s what counts. In the end. Isn’t it? Well? Isn’t it?’

The children stared at her dumbly.

‘There he is!’ Braces yelled, pointing to Dan who had resumed his yoga practice on the back deck where all the kids could see him through the glass door.

‘Get out of the way!’ screamed Freckles and knocked Adie to the floor. Once their leader was in, the rest of the pack were free to follow. They ran through the house in a cyclonic frenzy until they made it to Hugh Jackman, surrounding him like a swarm of hornets, all clamouring for his autograph until Freckles restored order...

'Looking for Mr Jackman' is now in the hands of Mr Les Murray, literary editor at Quadrant, so we'll see how that goes.

Love to hear your thoughts on picking up the threads of a story. Have you ever abandonded a story thinking that it was going nowhere? I dare you to go back to it, trust the mystery, trust the story and keep pushing on through that hump. Let me know how it goes.