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Something my late father taught me that I’ve never forgotten was to surround myself with people who I respected, and people who inspired me. “Stand on the shoulders of giants,” he told me. And while I didn’t really begin to live by this code for some years, it resonated with me and I never forgot his advice. But what does it really mean to stand on the shoulders of giants?
There are a lot of writers out there who take their poetry very, very seriously. They study tone, lineation, verse and structure. They analyze rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and the many conventions of Western poetry. And while it’s important for a writer to understand the function of line-breaks, alliteration and form, etc – poetry remains one of the few forms of prose where there are no rules. Or rather rules that must be learned in order to be broken.
My short story ‘One in a Thousand’ received Third Place in Issue #32 for On the Premises. Their prompt was: We challenged contestants to write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which a character (not necessarily the main character, but one important to the story) almost dies.
In the end they received 377 contest entries and chose six stories for prizes.
This piece was originally planned to be my creative submission for a literacy unit: Reading, Writing & Criticism, but was born out of a lecture prompt: write about a near-miss event (something that could’ve been much worse). Pay attention to sensory detail.
During the lecture I decided to write about an experience where I almost had a biking accident in wet weather. I decided to approach the first part of the exercise from a realistic perspective; simply writing what happened from a first person perspective in present tense. I decided on present tense for its feeling of urgency/immediacy, as this was my memory of the near-accident. The next part of the exercise was to change the perspective. For this I decided to write from the perspective of an imaginary onlooker, and decided to also keep this in first person; something I had never attempted before (writing two, first person perspectives in a single narrative). I later decided to complete the piece by experimenting with these multiple angles in a fragmented edit. The end version isn’t 100% linear, as I wanted the reader to experience the near-miss drama (and perhaps doom) from the onlookers perspective, thereby creating more suspense with this back and forth exchange. I have attempted to separate the perspectives by using a back-slash for the onlooker and a forward-slash for the main protagonist.