I love this story, but you already know that, because I told you so during many stages of its existence! Can you tell the Lightspeed readers how “Rock, Paper, Scissors, Love, Death” came about?
Thank you! The story was really fun to write.
I do a writing contest on Codex (an online writing group) called Weekend Warrior. Participants write a flash fiction story every weekend for five straight weekends, and it’s a great way to get a lot of stories drafted in a short amount of time. Over the years, I’ve written around thirty-five stories for Weekend Warrior.
This year I decided to try something a little different—I wanted to write a freestanding flash story that I could use as the beginning of a longer piece. One of the contest prompts asked “what do you keep returning to, story after story, year after year?” and I noticed that I often write about love and/or death. I got the idea to structure the story as rock-paper-scissors-love-death, and I wrote the first section (ROCK) for the contest. I think it works pretty well as a stand-alone flash, although I definitely do like the longer version better.
Using a Pacific Northwest setting is unusual for you. What inspired that location, and how did it affect the story?
This question got me thinking about why I don’t use the Pacific Northwest as the setting for more stories, and I think part of it is that as both a reader and a writer, I like to escape into other worlds. Stories set where I live can feel a little too familiar, a little too comfortable.
But most of my story ideas come from mashing together whatever I’ve got in my head, and sometimes the things in my head are close to home. Around the time I was drafting this story, there was a rockslide at Snoqualmie Pass. That particular slide involved relatively small rocks, but in the past there have been rockslides involving boulders the size of cars.
The time travel loops are complex, as is the “Rock Paper Scissors” motif. Did any of that give you trouble while writing?
The hardest thing for me to keep track of was the pair of red-handled scissors. The scissors make three jumps on the time machine, and change hands five times. I had to be careful not to introduce continuity errors, and I also needed to make sure that the oldest pair of scissors were the ones that got destroyed by the rock.
I also had a hard time remembering which things beat which other things in rock-paper-scissors-love-death, so I had a rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock image that I used as a reference to make sure I had the correct winners for each pairing.
You’ve had a lot of success lately with short fiction. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers admiring your path?
It’s hard to give general advice to new writers, because everyone’s path is different. For instance, many people swear by “write every day,” which has never worked for me. I write best in bursts, with breaks in between.
With that said, here is my advice:
Write, revise, submit, repeat. Find a good critique group to get feedback on your work. Be persistent. Remember that a rejection isn’t personal, all it means is that a story wasn’t right for that particular market. Write what you love, and find whatever process works for you.
Finally, what are you working on lately? Any chance for a Caroline Yoachim novel one of these days?
Right now I’m focused on short fiction, with no novels coming out any time soon. But I will have a book out next year! I’m currently putting together stories for my collection, which will be out with Fairwood Press in 2016. It’s been fun reading over all my published work to find the right mix of stories. The collection will also include one or two original stories, so I’m working on getting those written and polished.
For readers interested in seeing more of my work before mid-2016, I have stories in recent issues of Fireside Magazine, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. A complete list of my fiction is available on my website at https://carolineyoachim.com
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