If the shoe doesn’t fit…

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. “

Maya Angelou

Some stories behave like Cinderella’s shoe. They won’t let you be until you find the right fit for them.

When a story idea starts chasing me, the only way to go is to write it down. This is easier said than done. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, the story doesn’t want to fit the shoe I got for it. It wiggles and finds its way back out into the open.

The thing with stories is that, once I made a pact to tell them, it’s impossible to back out. I have to make them work, so I write, rewrite and edit until there is a click.

It took me a while to realise that the problem was the shoe, not the story. I discovered this while writing a short story about a ghost village in the Alps. No matter how hard I tried, the result always ended up in the bin. I let it cool down for a while. It wasn’t until I spotted a contest for ‘epistolary’ short stories that I got back to it.

As soon as I started rewriting it, something strange happened. As soon as I got rid of the shoe, the story no longer struggled. It didn’t wiggle, it didn’t resist. I knew this was it.

After this, I decided to try the same with a few other failed short stories. Based on writing competitions in Writing’ magazine, I made a list of different story forms to try and started my own storytelling makeover. Lucky winners came out as dialogue-only stories, unreliable narrator stories and flash pieces.

Yet there was one short story that resisted all forms, but it demanded to be told. I tried to pin it down at least ten times (who’s counting, right) without a satisfying result. As it turned out, the story didn’t want to be short at all. It’s now resting as the first draft of my new novel.

Couldn’t I just have let it go and tried writing something else? In theory, yes, but for me, committing to a story means making a pact to tell it. All I need to do is let it find the right shoe.

How do different story forms work for you? Always happy to learn something new.