Mr. Walker’s job was to rewrite people’s backstories. He had started out forging documents, then moved on to inventing anecdotes for politicians, scripting dates and interviews, that sort of thing. Now every character was clamouring for his services.
‘The whole thing’s a fiction, anyway,’ he said.
We were in his office. It was a dark afternoon, and I was watching the raindrop shadows travelling down his face. I wondered whether he was happy.
How did I know he hadn’t made up his story? That he really was who he said he was?
‘Of course I made it up, kid. You think I waste all the good storylines on strangers? But I like you, so here’s the deal. I’ll give you the gist of it, the bare bones. You find it works, we’ll flesh it out together, and you can pay me what you like. How’s that sound?’
I couldn’t deny that it sounded fair.
‘So, what’s the problem? Nothing criminal, I hope?’
I shook my head. No, no, it wasn’t anything like that. I had always been too good for my own good.
‘Ah, a bit of excitement then? You wanna be someone who’s up for anything, someone who knows how to have a grand old time, an inspiration to others!’
Yes, that was it. A life worth writing about.
Mr. Walker laughed. ‘Anything worth writing about is worth rewriting,’ he said, descending upon his typewriter.
That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Inspiration & Writing
Yes, I’m still fascinated by the idea of rewriting memories. I thought it would be fun to hint at a film noir detective atmosphere in this one page story, although if I’m honest, I think I stole the idea from The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Neil Gaiman which I listened to recently.
I initially called the backstory-writer, ‘Mr. Walker’, but I changed it to ‘Walker’ during edits. Omitting the title does a few things, in my opinion:
- It brings the characters closer together. The form of address sounds more familiar, which opens up the possibility of a friendship between them.
- It evens up the social status of the two characters, although Walker still calls the POV character, ‘kid’, indicating that he’s older.
- It makes the “applicant” sound less respectful, and therefore less needful of Mr. Walker’s services.
- It may also make it less likely that the POV character will be construed as a female, although the film noir setting probably undermines this. What do you think?
While formatting the page, I thought it would be fun to indicate the aforementioned edits, to tie them in to the story’s subject. Has
Mr. Walker been marking this (typewritten) page with red ink?
Dialogue takes up a lot of room, so it’s even more difficult to squeeze a dialogue-heavy story onto one page!
For this story, I liked the way that reporting the POV character’s speech indirectly not only helps to distinguish the voices, but also feeds in to the question of whether or not this story was written by Mr. Walker. Is he purposely denying the character their own voice? Is this the ‘gist’ of the story, without settled dialogue? If you’re enrolled in How to Be the Heroine of Your Own Story, be sure to check out the Voice Matrix in your textbook for a visual representation of how these choices between direct and indirect speech affect the narrative.
I hope you enjoyed reading this story, and that you consider trying your hand at writing a one page story too!