Trackless fiction

I haven’t made as much progress as I hoped on Finnegans Afoot this week. I know where I want the story to go now, and how to get it there, but this has involved a lot of visits to past chapters to squeeze in references and foreshadowing and other preparatory bits. I’m doing a lot of groundwork I didn’t do earlier (when I didn’t know about it), but that means I’m not doing much new work on the next chapter.

Well, it’s all essential. The story is stronger for it. The rewrite will be tougher though. Much of what I’m adding seems forced into place right now, and I’ll have to work hard to smooth its edges and make it seem like it belongs. That will be easier once I get the story finished in first draft though.

In recent years, a “lost” manuscript by Mark Twain was published in one of the literary magazines. (I think it was the Atlantic.) As I recall, the manuscript had been submitted back in Twain’s time and not published for some reason, then it was filed away and forgotten. It was recently rediscovered and published with some fanfare. As I recall, most contemporary critics thought the story was not very good and could see why it had been unused originally and forgotten subsequently.

The story involved a man found on the ground in the snow, dazed. What was curious was that there were no tracks in the snow leading to where the man was. He was out in a field, too far from where he could have jumped, and no one could figure out how he could have gotten himself so far out on the snow without leaving a track. It was as though he fell from the sky.

Which, if I recall the story correctly, is exactly what did happen. He fell from a balloon, and the story went on to disparage the imagination of Jules Verne, whose fiction Twain did not respect.

That idea of a person inexplicably in the trackless snow has stayed with me. It knocked about in my head until it bumped into another snowy anecdote I recalled. Years ago I had read a collection of spooky, supposedly true stories set in Illinois. One of them involved a young man leaving the family cabin on a winter night to fetch water or such. There was a noise and the family could hear him shouting “They’ve got me! They’ve got me!” When they rushed outside to see what was going on, they found his tracks ending abruptly in the snow, and the implication was that he was carried off by some darked, winged beast.

Well this is how my creative mind seems to work. Ideas float around in my head until they accumulate and gain enough mass to attract further attention. Now I have an idea for a short story dealing with footprints in the snow and missing people. I’m making notes about it, but I wouldn’t be surprised that in a few weeks I’m writing the story in my free moments.

Explore posts in the same categories: Finnegans, Humble efforts, short stories

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