The Story Behind the Story: Achilles' Heel (Part 2)

For Part 1 of the story behind “Achilles’ Heel,” click here.

So I finished my first draft of “Achilles’ Heel” and submitted it my writer’s group. I knew they’d have plenty to say, especially about the ending.

I was right.

For starters, there was the problem of Alan’s heel. He reached for it far too many times. Okay, I’ll nix a few heel scratches.

Mostly, though, there was the problem of the ending. Considering I just threw it together at the last minute, this was not a surprise. First, there was some disagreement about what the ending meant. Did the disappearance of Alan’s heel itch meant he’d reached peace with his memories of his mother? Did it mean he made peace with himself? Did it mean his mother had died? Note to self: clarify the meaning a bit more.

But there was general consensus that the ending was unsatisfying. Alan needed to see his mother, talk to her, write her a lettercommunicate with her in some way. Okay, then. How could I implement that? Should I have the action switch location and send Alan to the hospital to see his mother in person? Do I send him home to write a letter or make a phone call?

I decided I wanted to keep the action of the story in the same location: Dr. Lucas’ office, mostly because I knew Alan would chicken out if left to his own devices. He needed Dr. Lucas to shepherd him through the process. That limited the possibilities to letter writing to calling on the phone. I chose the latter.

Then came the excruciating process of plotting out the phone call. What if Alan called and his mother couldn’t speak on the phone? What if Alan called and found out his mother had just died? What if? What if? What if?

I rewrote the ending in fits and spurts: a sentence here, a phrase there. Know that cliché about pulling teeth? It was kinda like that.  But the teeth got pulled, the ending got rewritten, and now (hopefully) the story concludes on a more satisfying note.


To read the revised version of “Achilles’ Heel,” click here.