In 2016, I serialized the rough outline of a story entitled Worthy on my blog. It originally consisted of fifty parts, covering the life and times of Abigail Worthy, a character from a play I was writing, Another Mother. Early in 2017, I was notified that the play had been chosen by The Essential Theatre in Atlanta as the recipient of their play writing award and would receive a full performance in August of that year.
My original plan was to get Worthy into a publishable form in time for the Festival, since there was a tie-in to the play. When I compiled all the sections, however, the story obviously needed more work than could be accomplished in just a few short months. Worthy went on the back burner.
My next idea was to covert my play, Rebecca, Too, into a novel and have it ready for the Festival. This would have been ideal as well, since Another Mother was based on Rebecca and continued the story of several characters who were introduced in the play. After soliciting comments from four readers, however, I realized Rebecca wasn’t ready for prime time either.
The solution I settled upon was to take three stories from a previous work I published, Freedom and Consequence, and develop several pieces from my blog that were in various states of completion. The volume would be bookended by two long stories that I wrote in about two months, April through May of 2017. The result was Atlanta Stories: Fables of the New South.
Worthy remained off the radar for at least a year, though I came up with related projects, one of which was to be entitled Regan and Rosie, about Abigail’s aunts, one of whom was also in Another Mother. In fact, the project languished longer than I had anticipated, and in the meantime, I completed Reconstruction, the follow up to Fables, and compiled much of my other writing in Words Words Words, which consists of essays, poetry, and stories not immediately connected to the Expanded Universe of Fables and Reconstruction.
In pouring over the project again, I’m beginning to have a clearer understanding of why it has taken me so long to figure out what to do with the project. Abigail Worthy is an important figure in the Expanded Universe, but her backstory doesn’t actually relate to the main narrative I’m developing. Her original function in the earliest versions of the play in which she’s introduced was to inform her cousin of the results of a DNA test she administered. She was expanded to an important supporting character in the version of Another Mother as it now exists, but her function in the overall narrative I’m developing in the other works is in support of her cousin, Genevieve.
When I created the play, Rebecca, Too, which gave birth to my Expanded Universe of Fictional Atlanta, Claire Belmonte was a supporting character largely defined by her relationship with Rebecca. There was always a nagging sense, though, that something was terribly off in her portrayal and it wasn’t until I developed her story in Fables that she emerged as the major figure she’s become. Suddenly, her relationship with Rebecca was crystal clear and I answered a nagging question about something Rebecca told Claire.
I expected something similar would happen with Abigail, but the more I’ve written about her specifically, the less vital her back story has become to the main storyline. When I began adding stories from her family, the situation changed, and I’ve finally come to the realization that she’s an important character but one who probably shouldn’t be the main focus of the story. Instead, I’ve decided to focus more on the behind the scenes story of Another Mother .
Each type of creative medium has its own set of challenges and what works in one probably won’t translate well to another. While a novelist or story writer has the luxury of exposition, a playwright needs to view a work in terms of how the story translates to the action of the stage. Showing, rather than telling, becomes paramount to keeping an audience engaged. My problem, in translating a work to the stage, is knowing what to keep and what to discard.
Now that I have a better handle on it, I can proceed with Worthy, more assured in the direction I’m heading with it. I’m still not quite sure where it will end up, but at least I know what doesn’t need to be there. Finding the right place for some of the stories I want to tell is my greatest challenge, but at least I’ll have plenty of writing to keep me occupied.