As you all know, I've been working on writing and submitting some short stories. So, in keeping with the spirit of sharing my writing journey, I'll share this rejection from an editor at Boston Literary Magazine:
"Hi Shannon, thanks for the story. I have to be honest, nothing about it felt real to me... that a professional psychiatrist would be unnerved by a patient asking if they ever think about dying didnt sound authentic to me. And why would the psychiatrist have a gun in her desk? Are they in prison? Does this patient have a violent history? How did this patient have access to the desk to find the gun? Also I wasn't clear on the ending.. you say the psychiatrist unlocks the drawer to get the gun... and you say the "I" character lets her "feel the metal" and then leaps up. I wasn't sure if you meant the psychiatrist reached in and felt the metal of her gun... or if you meant the "I" character grabbed the gun and held it to the psychiatrist's head... if I were you I would go over this story again and resolve some of these issues... pondering what is human is a very interesting concept, but I don't think this story did it justice."
Again, I'm very very grateful that he even took the time to send a personal note. This does make me feel like I'm at least in the game.
Okay, now I'll share the quick fiction story since I'll have to rework it to the point of being a different story anyway:
The psychiatrist’s office is chilly today. I caress the cool skin of my cheek, this mask that shields what is underneath. Pressing harder, I feel the bone, the skull, the eye sockets, the teeth. I think this is all that will be left of me one day. A skull like those in the science books and museums which have been excavated and displayed for the purpose of teaching, of learning. Of learning that time marches on. That we exist in a blink of an eye. That one day, we will be stripped of our masks and bleached white by the sun. I imagine when this happens, my soul will be freed and wonder where it will float off to. I know there is such a thing as a soul. I know because I can feel mine trying to scratch and claw its way free from the confines of my body, its prison. I know it is a thing separate from my mind, because my mind is its tormenter. I wonder if this is what it is to be crazy? I know this is what it is to be human.
A harsh noise pulls me from my thoughts. She has cleared her throat loudly. This is her signal that I should open up to her, that I should tell her what I’m thinking. I make eye contact. This is what I’m supposed to do and she rewards me with her most encouraging smile.
“Do you ever think about dying?” I say.
I see her trying to hold her encouraging smile, but I’ve said something wrong. I feel myself shrinking, sucked inward by the vortex of disappointment.
“Do you think you could hurt yourself?” she asks, her voice even and professional; her eyes a separate betrayal. “Or someone else?” Too casual. She is afraid of me.
I want to tell her I’m sorry. I’m sorry that my curiosity and my tiny silver lock pick have already discovered her revolver in the third desk drawer on her right. The one she is now casually unlocking. I look away and pretend not to notice the shadow of her foot begin to wiggle nervously beneath the desk.
Intuition. That’s what humans have.
“Yes,” I sigh.
I give her time to feel the cold metal but not enough time to think it through. I have had too much time to think it through myself. I jump up. I see the flash of light but I feel nothing. Maybe I am not human after all.
I lunge into the unknown.
So that's it. The funny thing is I was picturing the patient in a prison setting with a dangerous background. So, the editor got it--even if he didn't know he got it.
I'm beginning to wonder if I just don't spell things out enough? I want to give the reader credit, give them pieces and feel confident that they can put together the puzzle. I want to give them a bit of mystery, of challenge. I guess this isn't the best way to go about a short story.
Learning as I go.
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