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There was a story I wanted to tell. It was about a drug-addicted stripper in post-apocalyptic Edmonton and the dealer who wanted to save her and through her himself (or at least assuage his guilt). It’s not really a long story, or a complicated story but it took me a very long time and a lot of thought to figure out how to tell it.
I tried telling it from her point of view. I tried telling it from his point of view. I tried using an omniscient narrator. I tried 2nd person point of view (oh yes I did!). I tried starting before the apocalypse. I tried starting at the end and working backward…
You get the idea.
No matter what I did it was a struggle. And the biggest reason it was a struggle was because I was pretty sure at least part of this story needed to be told from the woman’s point of view but she didn’t really have any agency.
Agency, in case you’re unfamiliar is… well, I’ll steal this description which came from Patricia C. Wrede — “The best short definition I found was “Agency is an actor’s ability to make purposeful choices.” (“Actor” in this sense being “a person who takes action,” not “Robert Downey, Jr.”)” (Source: http://www.pcwrede.com/agency-in-fiction/).
Normally when I discover that one of my characters lacks agency I rewrite them to give them some… but (because reasons!) that’s not what I did in this case. Instead I made the story about her lack of agency in a ‘This character has no real agency… but can she find some by the end of the story?’ kind of way. And it worked! Or, at least it worked enough for me to get the story written.
And it worked for the judges of the In Places Between short story contest at When Words Collide last year, because they chose it as the winner.
If you’d like to see if it works for you, you can download a free copy here: