LISP 2023 Short Story Finalist, FILM CLUB: A CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE TALE by Imogen Harris
What's the best and most challenging thing about writing a Story?
A short story either works or it doesn't, there's not really space to have any middle ground. It's like a hamster, it's either perfectly healthy or it's...a gonner. I think all writers have a little sentimental holding pen of ideas that they just can't make work somehow, but you're too attached to them to be able to let them go. Everyone has a pet manuscript in a drawer that the world hates, but you are stubbornly in love with.
How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?
I really wanted to explore the choose your own adventure set-up, and I thought that a fraught interpersonal exchange would be a fun way to do it. Obviously, there are aspects of my real life in it; conversations I've been part of, or watched other people have. I've watched all the films mentioned with my two best friends (who are nothing like the characters) for our own Bad Film Club. Writers are such thieves.
Structurally, this one was really complicated. I found out later that there are programs that can help you, but I ended up laying out pieces of paper all over the floor and forming them into patterns to create the circular conversations, the weird this-is-the-same-but-different exchanges. I hope it works for the reader, but it was certainly a good exercise for me.
Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?
Write it in one go, don't write half and then come back to it. Or at least if you don't have time for that, write until you've got past the climax, and leave the final paragraph for the second writing session. A short story idea is something that you should be so keen on that you don't want to break away from it. Of course, I fully broke that rule when writing this story.
I think that ideas are something you have to actively pursue. If I'm feeling low on inspiration, I make myself think of ten, twenty or fifty one-line ideas for a story. They don't have to be good, they don't have to be original, I don't have to ever write them, but there does have to be ten, twenty or fifty of them. It sort of gets your brain into the right pattern for spotting stories.
What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions?
Tarantino said that a manuscript has two lives: the first one, which is complete when you finish writing, and the second where you send it out into the world to see how other people respond to it. Short story competitions are a great way to give your work that second life. The most challenging thing is just to forget about it once you've submitted it, especially ones where you won't find out for six months or so. Do them, forget them.
Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?
I recommend that writers submit to the LISP and all the other short story prizes out there. When you're happy with your story, send it out into the world for its second life and then focus on the next thing you want to make -- don't fixate on all the times you weren't successful. Then any good news comes as an exciting surprise.