The Story Behind the Story: In the Deep

Two years ago, I found out about NYC Midnight and its contests from a member of my then-writing-group. At the time, I was struggling to sit down and write, struggling to generate new story ideas. The idea of contest with a deadline and provided prompts sounded like the perfect solution. I'd always done well with externally-imposed deadlines. Far better than I ever did with self-imposed ones. So, I signed up for the next Short Story Challenge.

For the first challenge, contestants had a week to write a 2,500 word story based on their given prompt. Mine was to write a fantasy about an astronaut on a fishing trip. As usual, the main character came to me first: a former astronaut now working as a deep sea explorer.

I sat down and the words poured out. I was almost a thousand words in when I realized I was writing science fiction, not fantasy. Oops. I liked my story, though, and didn't want to through out everything I'd written. I needed a way to turn what I had from sci-fi to fantasy.

The glitch? I wasn't sure what makes a story a "fantasy." It's not a genre I read. Sure, I've read my share of the classic epic fantasies: Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, etc. But most of my reading is history or historical fiction. I needed to find out what defined a non-epic fantasy.

God bless, Google. I found lists of comment fantasy tropes and characters. I found one that fit my sci-fi story, and voila! my sci-fi became fantasy.

I felt good about the story when I submitted it, but I wasn't sure it was "fantasy" enough for the judges. Turned out, it was. I didn't make it past the first round of that competition, but I was encouraged by the judges' feedback. And thanks to the help of my writing groups, I was able to fix some of the issues identified by the judges.

Click here to read part 1 of "In the Deep."