On Killing Stories

February 1st, 2011 | daybook

And then sometimes this happens: you have to strangle a story in its crib.

I’d been offered a slot in an anthology, which was interesting to me, and had been talking to an artist who very much fancied the rural and spooky and really didn’t like things like cities or technology.  There’s a challenge for a short series, I thought.

But sometimes you just can’t make your brain go in the right direction.  Due to being in the middle of some big city-related jobs right now, I seem to be very much in the mindspace of urbanity and density and people, and not so much about the sparse and barren.  A year or eighteen months ago, I would have had a lot to say about the rural and the English landscape and so forth.  But last night?  Last night I realised all I had was a weak and crappy Quatermass And The Pit ripoff crossed with a Belbury Poly record.

I then did a thing I’ve very rarely had to do in my career: wrote to all concerned and said, sorry, I fucked up, this thing just isn’t working and so I’ve killed it.  I knew that the artist was still finishing up something else and had the option to go straight to another gig, which made me feel a little better for the massive inconvenience.  But not much.

The lesson is simply this: you just have to recognise that, no matter how much weight you put behind it and how much you tart it up,sometimes a story just doesn’t bloody work, and you have to take it behind the stables and shoot it through the head. No writer is perfect.  We all have dead bodies to our names.

The corpse gets thrown in the Loose Ideas folder, where one day it will doubtless be cannibalised for its more interesting/less ripoffy parts and interpolated into something new and better.  Storage of corpses is important.  As in life, you never know when bits of them will come in handy.


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