Plotting Mermaids

Posted: August 19, 2014 by writingsprint in Writing
Tags: , ,

"The Little Mermaid" in Copenhagen

“The Little Mermaid” statue in Copenhagen

Tonight I’m going to do a stream of consciousness post as I figure out the plot of a short story that I want to do.

A long time ago I wrote a story called “Nereid” about a man whose wife vanishes while they’re snorkeling in Jamaica on vacation. He tries to find her, fails, then comes back a year later when he starts having dreams about her. It was a good story about obsession but not so hot on plot and character other than the hero. So, for the exercise, I want to rewrite that one.

The main character is Pete, whose wife vanishes while they’re snorkeling in Jamaica. He wants to get her back.

What’s the price he has to pay? What makes this difficult? Hmm. Let’s say… she didn’t actually “disappear,” she left to spend some time in the sea because she was fed up with him. Or maybe she was a mermaid spending a year on land and now she has to go back to her own people. For now I’ll stick with the former. For her to stay, he has to shape up. I like it but it sounds like a complicated problem for a short story.

Aside: this is always my problem with short stories. I can’t keep the problem small enough for a short story. I need to focus. Lately I’ve tried asking myself, what kind of problem could you fix in a day, or a weekend?

Well, this could be a country-mouse-town-mouse story, like I read when I was a kid. He asks her to marry him, she says no, because she’s a mermaid, and she misses the water too much. He tries spending a week under water with her and proceeds to get swimmer’s ear, chased by sharks, the usual. (Short! Short! Keep it short!) All right, like the mouse story, just make it one day or one night. If I keep thinking about the mice that’ll encourage me to keep it playful. I could also flip the story and make him a mer-man as opposed to having her be a mer-maid.

By the time the story’s over, he has to decide to stay, go, ask her to stay or go, or they have to find some kind of happy-joy-it-worked-out-anyway middle ground. Hmm. Well, it’s not the dramafest I was expecting, but I think this is what I’ll go with. Basic five-act structure, “oh my God,” “tension rising,” “pivot point,” “climax,” “denouement,” or something similar. Oh, and remember to have fun along the way. Got it.

Photo credit: “The Mermaid” by Leonora Enking at Flickr
Photo is unmodified
Shared under Creative Commons license

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