Ah, the post after the story. What is there to say? It's like waking up to find yourself naked and in bed with a bunch of clothed people. Of course, the first question that goes through your head is, "How much did I drink last night?" But then you realize that you shared a part of yourself with the world and you reassure yourself that this is all okay.
When I began writing "The Boy in the Window" I had nothing more than a mental image. I started out with the memory of when I was about 3 years old. I found my mother's camera, a big and heavy thing with an attached flash, and figured that I could take a picture of myself by pointing the lens at the mirror. I could barely see over the counter and the results were quite shocking. I had pretty much forgotten the incident until my mother exclaimed with delight when she had the pictures developed. There in the photo a miniature Brady had been caught red-handed, barely visible behind the hulking silver and black camera, peeking into the mirror over the edge of the counter-top, fingers like spider legs as they groped for the button.
It was with that image that Andrew was born. The story was told with his perspective. The way a boy sees things. The story itself is about transition, about life. I wanted to write something that would make people feel. What I ended up with was something that made ME feel. That made the story so much harder to edit. Every time I read and reread, the magic diminished. It was hard to watch it shrivel and die. I submitted it off to the Bebo contest, but missed a good number of typos and silly mistakes. I even read the thing aloud, very slowly, but still missed them.
A few weeks later I took the story with me to my new Speculative Writing writer group and had it critiqued. One person found the piece of paper that Phineas placed into the book a bit distracting and wondered if there wasn't more to this red herring. That was a bit of a surprise to me. The piece of paper, instead of a bookmark - in my mind, said something about his practicality, but was only really there to be discarded, to show his defeat after hearing the test results. It was a significant gesture, he was prepared to die on the battlefield, he had given up.
It wasn't until he realized that he had an audience that he could accept his fate. He needed Andrew to help him through the hardest part of his life. The other critique found a few grammatical problems and I was a bit upset that even after my round of corrections after I submitted, some still managed to escape me. It wasn't until a few weeks later that I made the corrections and was thankful for them.
At the end of it all, I enjoyed writing this story more than any other. It was sad, yes. But I felt it was a good sadness, one not without meaning.
The title was a toss up between "The Boy in the Window" and "The Gift." Both of them still fit pretty well, but I think I made the right choice.
Here are a couple of posts I made about this story while it was still under wraps:
Well, at least someone decided to get naked with me and throw their heart on the line. Ken Armstrong at Writing Stuff posted his short story, "Visibility", this weekend. Click on the link and check it out.