Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Story Sheets: "Lucky Spider's Last Stand"

Welcome to February!

After my most productive month on this blog, we continue forward with yet another entry in this new sub-series of Story Sheets. I've been on a roll and have no intention of slowing yet. So let's get to it.

Once again, you can find the stories I've written about so far in Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures. It's a collection of interlocking stories that all take place on the same dark streets featuring the same battle between dark and light. I wrote these stories over three years between other projects, but as this series shows it does not mean a lack of effort in them. Today we continue with this series.

I hope you're ready for a quick one, because it's time to cover a fan favorite pulp nugget from the Pulprev Sampler you might have already read.

This time we're covering the sixth story in Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, the shortest one, Lucky Spider's Last Stand.

“Stop right there, Crusader,” Spider said. He raised the firearm, and tasted the bile at the back of his throat. 
“That will not stop me.”

This might be the most read story I've written, and it's also the shortest. As such there might not be as much to talk about as previous pieces in this series of posts, but I'll still give it a go. I'm sure readers would prefer having the inside story.

I wrote this story back when the PulpRev Sampler was asking for submissions back in 2017. They wanted short pieces, and I had the idea for this one early enough that I jumped at the chance to be included in the anthology. Thankfully, I was accepted for the final selection. If you have been up on every post so far then you can surmise that this is the second story I wrote out of these seven pieces.

Because of the limits of the anthology, I had to keep the piece to around 2000 words. This meant having to learn how to write around such a word count since I'd never done it before. It turned out to be quite an invaluable learning experience in writing.

The key to writing action stories short is having to start it in media-res. Unfortunately, there is not much choice for those who want to keep a strict word limit. Thankfully, it was something needed for this story.

When writing you want to make your story start as close to the action as possible, even if you're not writing an action story. Too many books are stuffed with a chapter or two of filler before anything plot-related actually occurs, and this slows pacing to a crawl. However, at the same time your story should start at the point your main character is just about to reach an important crossroad in their destiny. This event needs be the crux of the plot.

In this case, Spider's crossroad begins not moments after the start of the story. Beginning it any early would be redundant and would slow the story to a crawl. Even for a tale this short it is important to not bore the audience and get to the point as quickly as possible.

In fact, I have to thank the guys behind the PulpRev Sampler for this word limit, because it taught me a lot about how to condense a story into as little space as possible, and how to sharpen prose and stick to what's important for the story itself. The resulting piece is one Audio Guru JimFear138 raved about in his review and said:

"This story read like an old-school Dark Horse comic, and I loved every line of it."

While I am ecstatic that he enjoyed the story, I paid particular attention to the second half of the statement as every line and word counted in this one even with its brief length. It was a valuable learning experience and quite a fun story to write.

As a result the story was received very well, even in an anthology featuring the likes of John C. Wright, David J. West, Jon Del Arroz, Dominika Lein, and many other great writers with unique pieces of their own. If you haven't picked up this anthology yet, you really should. It is a great example of modern pulp-inspired writing. It does this without leaning on shop-worn tropes from 1950s B-movies or the transposing modern morality on early 20th century behavior that too many stories calling themselves pulp engage in.

It's an all around fun time, and it is dirt cheap. It comes highly recommended, even without taking my story into account.

Find it Here!

But the story idea itself came about during the initial planning of this set of seven. As I said earlier, one of the themes I wanted was one of characters at the breaking point of having to choose between black and white. Even those desperate to stay neutral will at some point have to pick a side before their time comes. Of all the stories, Lucky Spider's Last Stand is the most overt in that theme, being that it centers entirely around this idea as the central plot point.

Spider is a gangster at the breaking point. His gang has just fallen apart, his boss is dead, and he is now on the run with the cops on his tail. His time is running out. Just as his world is ready to be blown to hell, he meets a disturbing being who is ready to judge him for his crimes. Now it is time to face his destiny. This story is about the last stand of this lesser thug and his chance to realize just why he might have been called lucky. What is waiting for him at the end of his final night? This truly is Lucky Spider's last stand, which is where the title came from.

The fact that this story is so brash and straightforward meant it couldn't be at the beginning of the anthology. Too early and the context of the story in the wider set could be lost. This piece is thematically important, but it is too heavy on action and is too brief to take place before the darker tales. It would get lost and its bigger importance, its theme, would be diluted. There is more going on here than the surface action, so it needed to be put where readers would be more ready to understand that. It needed to be near the end of the book for it to fit.

At the same time, I didn't want three of the longest pieces to back-load the anthology. Since this tale is thematically important and straightforward enough to remind the audience what the entire set is all about, I decided the best place for Lucky Spider's Last Stand was to be placed right before the final story in the collection. This way it offers a pacing break and serves as a refresher right before the final course to come. Being placed sixth out of seven turned out to be the best choice for this, allowing it to stand on its own two feet. It being the shortest story in the collection only added to that decision.

There isn't a lot altered from the piece in the PulpRev Sampler to the final version aside from one name change because it was bugging me. If you've read the version in the Sampler then you will instantly see the difference. Otherwise it is more or less the exact same experience you enjoyed the first time, just in a larger context.

But that's really all there is to say about this short story. Everything else you need to know is in the text itself: it's a straightforward action tale meant to be forceful and direct. Being that it is also the penultimate piece here that is a necessary thing to have for the reader to remind them of what is happening in Summerside beyond the shadows.

You can find Lucky Spider's Last Stand in Someone is Aiming for You & Other Adventures, which is out now! It's seven stories of mayhem in the magic city, and this one is certainly no exception to the rule.

Action is here to stay in the NewPub revolution! Where the old guard threw us to the dogs, we are now back again and ready to roll. We're coming for you, and we aren't leaving any survivors!

Find it Here!

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