When It Doesn’t Belong in Your Book, Make It a Short Story

Earlier this year, I blogged about stuff that needs to be cut out of a novel. If it doesn’t contribute to the story, out with it. And the offshoot stuff about Alice and her grief, her widowhood and eventual recovery, while interesting, did not really have anything to do with the storyline of Second Stories. I was told to cut three chapters about Alice. I posted the first chapter, entitled “Alice“, and now I’ve edited the second chapter that didn’t make the cut.

Alice is Geo’s mother. Geo is a really screwed up character. Alice didn’t know how screwed up her son was, because he wouldn’t have allowed her to know, and people just didn’t talk about depression back then, in the sixties. We can’t blame Alice for that, it’s just the way it evolved. Perhaps she might have been more vigilant, but she didn’t know what to look for. We can excuse her for that.

Alice is a good person, what’s not to like about her? She is a good wife, and a good mother (with the exception noted above), and she’s even a good mother-in-law to Lydia, who is married to the above-mentioned screwed up character. Alice does what she thinks is right, and has an unremarkable yet happy life, and goes down life’s highway until her husband gets sick suddenly and dies within six weeks of his diagnosis.

Like many of us, Alice doesn’t think too deeply about things, she’s more concerned with whether the weather will hold for her weekly trip to the grocery store. She’s sees what happens around her but it strangely doesn’t seem real to her. And when family members died, she was much younger. Oh. Yes, Grandpa died. He was eighty-something. Oh, well, then. People die when they get to that age.

Unless a person dies at a young age, or maybe in an accident at a less than young age but still not old age, at some point we all examine our own mortality and the light comes on. Hey, we’re going to actually die one day. When George died, that was Alice’s wakeup call. She was grief-stricken at the loss of her husband, but more that she hadn’t been able to do anything for him. She hadn’t had the education, or the time, to think about death, so she could discuss it with him.

Alice could have withered into a comfortable widowhood but she made a choice not to do that. She chose to do for others what she couldn’t do for George, and become a hospice volunteer so that she might help some people who are at the end of their lives. I could probably write a book about Alice and her hospice adventures. But here is one of them, her very first hospice experience.

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4 thoughts on “When It Doesn’t Belong in Your Book, Make It a Short Story

  1. Thanks for the second Alice chapter! It was great – went through a Kleenex or two! Although I have to disagree with you that it didn’t belong in “Second Stories” – after all, Alice’s life after her husband’s death, and what she chose to do with that life, is a ‘second story’. Now I’ll just wait for the 3rd chapter!!

    • Sue, glad you liked it. I never thought of it that way, but Alice’s life change might be a Second Story too. Three additional chapters would have tacked 12,000 words onto an already really long book. Most books are shorter. I am glad you liked it, look for another (the last) next week. And I posted it because you told me I should!

  2. i just read both chapters about Alice–I loved the integration of Pride and Prejudice into the story and how it served as a “safe” place for Alice and Ruth. I think you continue to grow as a writer, especially in capturing the subtle nuances of everyday life for everyday people. Keep going, girl!

    • Nancy, thanks for the kind words. Who can’t bond over Pride and Prejudice? It is a truly remarkable book, complex in speech yet easy to understand. Thanks for the encouragement!

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