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.