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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Stuff that has to be cut out of a novel

You might remember, in a previous post I talked about first books being autobiographical. I wrote a chapter in Second Stories, which closely mirrored a situation I encountered first hand. I don’t want to be too specific, since I don’t want to share a story all over the whole entire world wide web net thingy such that the person it was patterned after might be identified, but there was a death, and the story of Alice could have happened the way it did, but that part really is fictional.

The chapters about Alice were rejected by my editor, as not having anything to do with the actual novel. I realized he was right, I just liked them. I liked the story of Alice and how she evolved into widowhood, how she dealt with the death of her husband. I have two other chapters about her, and I’d like to share them with my readers so I’ve posted the first one on my website, and also here. Two more coming, about Alice’s adventures with her volunteer work in hospice and an assisted living facility. None of these chapters are in Second Stories.

And it’s a little autobiographical too, since I lost someone once, before I felt it was time to really lose her. And some of the feelings Alice experienced are my own, both because I have been through the loss of a loved one, and because I’ve had what could have been a near-death experience. We change how we view death, when it has been close enough that we confronted it eye-to-eye. It becomes less scary.

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