The Story Behind the Story: Newton's Law

As a writer and a reader, I'm curious about where writers' ideas come from, in part because I'm always looking for new sources of inspiration for myself. My guess is that others share this curiosity. To that end, I've decided to supplement my monthly "Fiction First" stories with blog entries that explain the story behind the story, starting with this month's story.

The Prompt

"Newton's Law" is my first-ever attempt at a romance story, and I wrote because I had to. Last year, I was introduced to an outfit called NYC Midnight, which runs writing contests of various sorts throughout the year. Every contest--whether short story, flash fiction, or screenwriting--is based on prompts provided by NYC Midnight. It's one of the things I like about the contest: the prompts give me a starting point and help level the playing field. For the first round of the 2013 Flash Fiction Challenge, my prompt was to write a romance story that is set in an apple orchard and includes a fake mustache.

As is the case with every NYC Midnight contest, I spent the first few hours in a panic. (Did I mention the contests are timed? For the Flash Fiction Challenge, I had 2 days--one weekend--to write a 1,000 word story.) I had never written romance before. I had not read many romances, either. (A total of three--all written by my friend, Judy Genandt--if you don't count the romance novels we read aloud in the hallway during Finals Week my freshman year of college.)

Then there was the setting. I don't think I have ever been in an apple orchard in my life. If I have, it did not leave any kind of lasting impression. That was an easy fix, though, thanks to Saint Google. A few image searches later, I had an idea of what an apple orchard looks like and I started writing.

Writing the Story

The narrator's voice came quickly. I could hear her telling me her story, her voice dripping with sarcasm, and I simply took dictation. The title came quickly, too. I wanted to play on the apocryphal story of Isaac Newton and the apple falling on his head. (Hence, the apple farm sign and family name in the story.) The title, though, and the plot were inspired by Newton's other works--specifically, his laws of motion. Newton's First Law of Motion says that an object in motion stays in motion and an object at rest stays at rest, unless an outside force is applied to it. If ever a natural law applied to Jane's story, this was it.

Her story, initially, was more romantic comedy than romance. That was a problem. NYC Midnight considers romantic comedy and romance two different genres. If I submitted my story as written, it would have been dismissed by the contest judges.

So, another visit with Saint Google helped me differentiate between romance and romantic comedy. One revision later (narrator's sarcasm intact), my story was closer to meeting the mark--and my deadline was up. Story submitted.

The version over at Fiction First is a revised version of that original story, which placed 7th out of 27 in the contest.

Click here to read the story "Newton's Law."