Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: The Writers Skill/Craft (04/22/10)
TITLE: Once I Loved You
By Carol Slider
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We met the weekend Jim was out of town. I followed a two-lane road into the country, past half-deserted small towns and 100-acre ranches. When I saw an old gray stone house with empty windows and a caved-in roof, I stopped in the driveway and gazed at it for a while. I noticed an antique rose bush that still hugged the slanting porch... and all at once, you were there.
You followed me home, whispering sweet wordsâand after that, you became my obsession.
I spent every spare minute with you, ignoring everything else, even Jim. Jim understood, as always, even when he realized this wasnât an ordinary fling.
âThis one means a lot to you,â he said one night, sad but resigned. And I admitted he was right.
Nothing cooled my ardor. Even when you were difficultâeven when you did things I didnât expect or wantâstill I loved you.
When THE END came, it seemed like another beginning. There you were, whole and complete and perfect...
I read you again, savoring your craftsmanship, your power to move and inspire. You pried apart the layers of the heart, exposing its capacities for good and evil. You were a mystery, a grand romance, a profound spiritual journey of sin, grace and redemption. Oh, how I loved you!
Jim read you first. He said âItâs goodâ in his understated way. I didnât mind, because I knew he meant it.
I gave you to Lillian, who taught middle school English. She told me I had forgotten a âtheâ on Page 64 and used âthereâ instead of âtheirâ on Page 138. As for your plot and characters: âPretty good story. Kind of wordy in places.â
Did I love you less? No, of course not. When she wasnât grading atrocious papers, Lillian read fantasy and science fiction. How could she could judge your true nature, when you hadnât a dragon or spaceship in all your 276 pages?
Finally, with some trepidation, I gave you to Margot. Margot belonged to a support group for writers who had once loved manuscripts. But their manuscripts had disappointed, betrayed and abused them so severely (as their rejection letters proved) that they now seemed to dislike all manuscripts. Margot didnât always agree with their brutal criticisms, and told me so.
âSure, Iâll read it,â she said. âAnd Iâll be fair.â
Two weeks passed. I tried not to look at you, afraid of seeing a flaw I hadnât noticed before. Then Margot called.
âOkay, I finished it. You want honest criticism, right?â
âYes...â I said, half-truthfully.
âOkay. Well, you use passive voice too much... you should eliminate every âwasâ or âwereâ, if you can. Youâve got a lot of stereotypesâgood girl, bad girl, greedy tycoon, etceteraâexcept for Stephen, and no oneâs going to relate to a viola player. Most people canât even pronounce 'viola.' Stephen shouldnât end up with Elise. It should be Katie, even if she did steal his college money. Those plot twistsâthe note in the book, the truth about Leonardâs mother... way too predictable. Mainly, though, it doesnât fit any genre. Itâs too sanctimonious and old-fashioned for the general adult fiction market, but itâs not religious enough for the Christian market. You couldnât sell it, like it is now. But itâs pretty well written, except for...â
Love is supposed to grow and deepen, even when you realize that the one you love isnât perfect. That should have happened to my love for you. But it didnât. After that, I saw you the way Margot did.
So I tried to change you. I took away Stephenâs viola and made him play a pronounceable trumpet, but he hated playing the trumpet. I tried to make Stephen love Katie, but he didnât love Katieâand he broke Eliseâs heart. I ruthlessly deleted hints about plot twists, and made them illogical. I wrote laboriously hip dialogue to make the story less old-fashioned, and added a subplot about a minister. Perhaps I made you betterâbut the shadows of the stone house and the rose bush were gone.
It was over.
Iâve saved you in the directory called OLD NOVELS. If I ever read you again, it will be like finding a corsage pressed between the leaves of a book. Thereâll be no hint of fragranceâbut perhaps a word or a phrase here and there will remind me...
Once I loved you.
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