So I am writing a story to submit to the Saturday Evening Post short story contest. See: http://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/fiction-contest
I like specific guidelines, one of which is this: Think local. The Post has historically played a role in defining what it means to be an American. Your story should in some way touch upon the publication’s mission: Celebrating America, past, present, and future.
I am an American who lives in America, living in a town that supplies endless material (both complimentary and not so complimentary). Lots of writers love to write about the South (Tennessee Williams comes to mind). I’d had the road trip for a story all mapped out, until I realized it might be too religious in nature. It was going to be about a group of four girlfriends, one of whom leaves the comforting folds of Mormonism, and how her leaving affects the rest of them.
My idea preceding that one was going to be about two sisters, Lucy and Emma Potlocki (who go by the “Anglicized” surname of Lock), who seek their fortune by auditioning for the part of Scarlett O’Hara in 1939, then I googled for some information, and that’s when I came upon “The Scarlett O’Hara War”–a TV-movie about just that. Sometimes you wonder if your idea is original, or, if somewhere, in the back of your mind, it’s a memory.
According to Branden Rathert, our local radio host, when one steps into Pensacola, they’re stepping into the year 1927. I don’t think places like Emerald City (google it, if you want) existed in 1927, at least not openly, though Pensacola does have a church on every corner (and some in between).
However, I will not be setting my story in Florida, but rather in Sidney, Montana, where I was a live-in nanny for three girls. Since the story has to be fiction, I juiced it up a bit. My protagonist (I don’t use the term “heroine”, as I think it’s silly, unless she does something heroic) is from Pensacola, but has left home to do just what I did more than a decade ago. She is LDS (as I was at the time, though I won’t make her religion central to the story; however, Mormonism is a very American religion), and that’s where the similarities between my story and her story end. Her experience is quite a bit darker (I just can’t help myself) than mine was.
I borrowed her (and one of the main two plots) from the novel I wrote (“The Fall and Rise of Alfred Bomber”) that she is a supporting character in. Since it will be quite some time before “Alfred” is finished (meaning edited), I thought Karsen Wood (the name of my protagonist) may as well be doing me some good elsewhere. I see this story as Karsen’s part-time gig, rather than her full-time career in “Alfred”. I grew quite fond of her (as she is an extension of me), in addition to the fact that her story gave me something to build on other than a blank screen.