The Story Behind the Story: Achilles' Heel (Part 1)

I thought I'd try something different this summer. Instead of a new story on July 1st and August 1st, I thought I'd give a glimpse into my writing process. So, today, July 1st, I posted the first-ish draft of a new story: "Achilles' Heel." Next month, I'll post the revised version.

The idea for story "Achilles' Heel" came out of nowhere. I woke in the wee hours of the morning back in March with the image of a woman dipping her infant in the fountain at a shopping mall, holding the baby by the heel like he was Achilles. I rolled over and went back to sleep--it was the wee hours--and wrote the idea in my notebook later, after I woke up and started my day.

The idea stuck with me. At random moments, I found myself wondering why a woman would dip her baby in a public fountain and what effect did the incident have on the baby as it grew up. It took a few fits and starts of scribbling in my notebook to come up with the scenario: a grown man in therapy, trying to deal with the memory of what his mother tried to do to him.

The actual writing of the story didn't go smoothly, either. I started over half a dozen times. Wrote two paragraphs, deleted one. I started writing the story on March 8th. I finished the first draft June 17th. That's right: six weeks to write 1,494 words. I believe that's the definition of slow.

Early on, I had an image of how the story would end: the protagonist in his car in the parking lot of the hospital where his mother is a patient. However, on June 16th, as I began writing the end of the story, I realized that ending would not work. I did not have a Plan B. I was stuck.

This is what I wrote:

I had a self-imposed deadline of the next night (June 17th), so that I could submit the story to my writer's group. I put the story to rest and picked it up again on the afternoon of the 17th. I decided the last line had to return to the image of the heel used in the first line, and rewrote it accordingly. Then I went back in and added a few more heel-scratches into the story so that the last line would make more sense. I clicked SAVE and uploaded it for my writer's group.

You can read that first draft of the story here.

Next month, I'll share some of the feedback I got from my writer's group and post the revised version of the story.