Several years ago, I wrote about a visit to Buyukada in Turkey, an offshore island in a chain known as the Prices’ Islands that Istanbul dwellers use as a summer resort. It is a scenic place with hillside villas, beaches, a lively boardwalk full of outdoor restaurants and an ornate, fin-de-siecle pier. There are no motorized vehicles in the island except for fire and police, all transportation via donkeys, horse driven carriages and nowadays by bicycle.The essay was to be a chapter in a book I conceived as a memoir-travelogue that I never finished. It described the traditional fayton tour of the island (horse driven carriage), an unusual spur-of-the-moment haircut and a lengthy lunch in an outdoor seafood restaurant by the pier.
When I sent this essay to Selim, my old friend and main reader, he thought that it could be a free standing short story. So I recently converted it, inventing new names for all involved and changing all the “I’s to “he’s.Easy?
But it did not pass muster with Mim, my editor. The story came back to me with her usual revisions but also a big ticket recommendation. I needed to add another running story to it that had some drama. There were some hints in the story about what this could be. Maybe some tension between me and my father, suggested Mim.
Mim’s reaction to Buyukada underscored two issues for me. One is the problem of converting memoirs into third party short stories. I’ve already commented on The Royal Visit in a prior blog, that I thought came out flat. Now, so does Buyukada. The milieu of a memoir is simply not the same as that of a story. The Royal Visit is presently awaiting Mim’s review. I’m sure it too will return with major revision suggestions.
The other, bigger problem with Buyukada is that of drama. The essence of all drama is conflict. A pleasant day in my life, visiting a scenic island with a wife I love, while in a harmonious marriage is not the stuff of drama. What Mim was actually suggesting is that I inject some conflict into the story.
Easier said than done.
Major structural revision is like completing a building and then deciding that the doors and windows are not at the right place, or certain pillars are misplaced. It takes more effort to correct. I now have to re-inhabit the world of that story, invent some drama that is not overblown compared to the tone of the story – heaven forbid I become melodramatic; it’s worse than flat – and sprinkle this new story in bits and pieces all over the existing essay. It can be done, but it’s a project.
I put Mim’s revision into a file along with her comments. I’ll get to it at some later stage of developing my anthology. For now, I need to focus on the new material I am trying to create.