October 29, 2014

The Craziest Rainbow

As I explained earlier this month, I've lacked blogging inspiration lately, so it's been mostly book reviews. I don't know about you, but I'm getting kind of bored with that, so I thought this was a good opportunity to start up a new feature I've considered for a long time. I can guarantee this series will be highly self-indulgent, and if we're all lucky, it will also be somewhat entertaining.

Ever since I was a small child, I've fancied myself a writer. Thanks to diligent parental hoarding, many of my early creative efforts have been preserved, and I'd like to share some of these stories and poems with you. The first piece of juvenilia dates from second grade, which I believe makes it my earliest surviving work:

The Craziest Rainbow

The Craziest Rainbow, page 2

The Craziest Rainbow

Once upon a time, in the land of rainbows, a rainbow was an everyday sight. Whether it rained or not there was a rainbow. Everyday [sic] at 12:00 exactly, all the people in the town saw the rainbow. One day the rainbow looked like the one in my picture, which is not the way a rainbow should be. They asked the wise man why it looked that way and he said, "Every midsummer day it looks like that." So every midsummer, all the people in the town saw the craziest rainbow ever

An important step in the revision process is spending some time away from the work in order to return to it with fresh eyes. After a break of more than three decades, I'm able to examine this story critically. I see weaknesses, and I've made some revision notes:

→ Flash fiction often ends with a twist, and there's the germ of one here, but the order in which the information is given (as well as the illustration) undercuts the impact. The story should be restructured to end with either the appearance of the crazy rainbow, or the reveal of the reason for it, depending on which turns out to pack more punch.

→ As written, the story depends on the illustration. Aside from the fact that this could limit publication options, it means the writing isn't strong enough to stand alone. Describe the crazy rainbow so readers can picture it.

→ "Once upon a time" is a cliched opening, and while it can sometimes be used deliberately to good effect, I don't think it does anything interesting here.

→ If at all possible, avoid repeating the word "rainbow" so many times.

→ The story lacks any real characters. There are the townspeople as a group, and there's a wise man, but nobody is well-developed, and that makes it hard to care. Maybe a child protagonist? Or it's all from the wise man's point of view?

→ Inconsistency between whether the setting is a "land" or a "town". Do more worldbuilding to clarify, even if it doesn't make it to the page.

→ Instead of being about rainbows, the story could involve a weather phenomenon with higher stakes. Something dangerous, like a tornado? Or it's about a place with too much or too little rain (topical, for California)?

Feel free to offer additional critique. I'll contemplate these ideas and attempt a new draft of the story, probably in about five or ten years.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ In the New York Review of Books, Edward Mendelson discusses word processors: "The word processor that most of the world uses every day, Microsoft Word, is a work of genius that's almost always wrong as an instrument for writing prose. Almost-forgotten WordPerfect--once the most popular word-processing program, still used in a few law offices and government agencies, and here and there by some writers who remain loyal to it--is a mediocrity that's almost always right."


Henri Picciotto said...

The one thing that bugged me was the "exactly at noon" business. Other than that, it's a fine piece of writing.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Oh, you mean because rainbows only occur when the sun is low in the sky? I hadn't even thought of that. Totally destroys all believability!

Sally said...

Favorite turn of phrase: "which is not the way a rainbow should be"
Suggestion to deal with Henri's issue: "at exactly 7:41am". :)
Don't forget to add punctuation to the end of the final sentence!
I think that the greatest plausibility flaw is that this phenomenon apparently occurs every midsummer, yet nobody has noticed it before.
Note that you can raise the stakes without changing the central concern of the story as written: the crazy rainbow could turn out to be an omen of some sort rather than a regular occurrence. I think a story about a crazy rainbow is more original than a story about a tornado.
Also, I think the form of the rainbow being a sort of M shape should be significant. It's not just the craziest rainbow, it's Majestic or Menacing or Mathematical or Musical or Mittened.
In any case, I suggest you keep the illustration; it can go on the cover.

Lisa Eckstein said...

Sally, thank you for these helpful comments! This is why it's so important to get feedback on your work from other people.

I think that the greatest plausibility flaw is that this phenomenon apparently occurs every midsummer, yet nobody has noticed it before.

Yeah, that was bugging me, too. (But I guess I forgot to mention it.) It seems the real story here is that we have a land/town full of amnesiacs!

Sally said...

:) Also, "diligent parental hoarding" is totally a thing.

Andrea Blythe said...

I'm giggling with delight at this entire post.

The plausibility flaw of why no one noticed the craziest rainbow every summer could be a question of why the people stopped looking. Maybe they were so used to rainbows they stopped noticing them. Maybe they have an aversion to looking at the rainbows due to their culture or religion. Maybe something else even more interesting. :)

Lisa Eckstein said...

This story is getting more and more interesting as commenters add their ideas!

Rubrick said...

In the land of rainbows, the one-hued man is king.

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