Short Story

An Open Letter of Thanks to Molly O’Brien for “Casual, Flux”

Dear Molly O’Brien:

I am writing to let you know that I admired your story, “Casual, Flux.”   I found it on Paper Darts and I think they did a fantastic job with the design of the piece.

Science fiction stories happen to have been my first love and your story has a decidedly SF flair.  One of the big problems that a writer has when composing this kind of piece is that he or she must create a whole new world and a unique society in the space of only a few sentences.  I admire the way you hit the ground running in “Casual Flux.”  Here are the first few sentences:

Girl 23 and Boy 41 are sitting in Boy 41’s kitchen. It is 3:24 a.m. Boy 41 swirls warm bourbon in an IKEA drinking glass. They are recapitulating a humorous conversation from a party that occurred earlier tonight.

Two months ago, I made my initial 5-day observation and entered the assessment data into the Orcon database.

I love that we meet all three characters: Boy, Girl and the voyeur in the first sentence.  You offer all of the details we need to know that the watcher is doing so in some kind of official or scientific context.  You give us the time and phrases such as “5-day observation,” “assessment data” and “Orcon database,” the last of which makes it clear that the narrator is working for some kind of shady company or extraterrestrial agency.  (I’m fine with either one.)

The point is that you are wise enough to set up the “unusual” aspects of your world in an efficient manner, allowing you to get to the actual STORY.  And what a fun story it is.  Even though I’m retired from the game myself, I love a good love story.  What’s the problem?  There are so darn many love stories out there!  Have you done something completely new with this story?  Of course not.  There’s simply no way to write a brand-new romance.  But I wanted to tell you that I admire that you clearly looked at a very normal situation (a boy and a girl taking their relationship to a new level) and looked at it from a different perspective.  Instead of making Boy or Girl your first person narrator, you’ve added a little spice to a story that may otherwise be a little bland.

Do you like Sara Bareilles?  I like Sara Bareilles.  She’s incredibly talented and she writes great songs.  From what I understand, her record company encouraged her to write a love song that they could turn into a quick and easy single.  Did she come up with an “I Will Always Love You” or a “Without You?”  Nope.  She came up with “Love Song.”

Like “Casual, Flux,” Ms. Bareilles’s “Love Song” can be classified as a love story, but you and Ms. Bareilles keep us interested by doing something special with the concept.  Something that we can’t get from every other Celine Dion ditty.

So thanks again for such a cool story; I truly enjoyed spending a little time in the world you created.  Best of luck in your future endeavors!





Writing Craft Recap for My Kind Readers:

  • Establish your unexpected conceit as quickly as possible.  When you are working in a world that is different from our own, you need to orient us immediately.
  • Put your own spin on a story that may otherwise be formulaic.  There are no new stories under the sun; what should make us want to read your spin on a human event that has happened many times before?

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