Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Write What You Want by Eric James Stone

My Story Recommendation of the Week goes to Write What You Want by Eric James Stone, from the September 2012 issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show. This is Eric's second SROTW. His previous recommended story, "That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made," went on to be a Hugo nominee and Nebula Award winner, so the bar is set high for "Write What You Want."

The narrator of "Write What You Want" owns a magic shop, which is visited by a troubled young girl:
From the haunted look on her face, I don't think she's an aspiring magician interested in tricks. She's here for the real magic. . . . I hold up a hand and say, "Don't tell me. You're here because you want something so much it hurts."
To work this magic, the shop owner has the girl write down on a slip of paper what it is she wants so much. Interspersed through the story are the notes written down by previous visitors to the shop. The shopkeeper's magic really works, but not for everyone . . .

This is a very short piece, only slightly over 1000 words, but it succeeds on multiple levels. The key to flash fiction is to distill the story down to its essence. Eric James Stone does that effectively by telling us almost nothing about his characters except what they most want. He conveys what the young girl wants and needs in powerful fashion. He includes snippets that amount to microfiction stories about previous visitors to the shop: "I want the cancer to be gone so I don't die." / "I want to be thinner and prettier than Jasmine Rawlings." / "I want to be straight." And he ends with the narrator. All we know about her (or him) is her dearest, unselfish desire, a desire she tragically cannot always have.

"Write What You Want" is a beautifully written story, well worth the subscription price to IGMS.

As an aside, posting this today makes me eligible for Eric James Stone's contest to win his old Kindle. So yes, you can bribe me for a Story Recommendation of the Week, but only if you can write a kick-ass story like "Write What You Want."

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