I submitted my newest short story, "Padma", to my writers’ group last night. It went over very well, which honestly surprised me. I was convinced that it sucked, especially the end; and yet the end got the most positive feedback overall. Some of the descriptions that were bandied about were "chilling", "scary", and "superb", though there was some mixed thoughts about the very last line.
I do have some concerns about the story. For one thing, it’s really about overcoming the fear of death, and I’m not entirely certain my main character’s fear of death is well demonstrated. For another, I don’t know if the imagery and ideas I was going for at the end really came through. I gathered that there was some confusion, though some people got it and some didn’t.
Mostly, though, I worry that with my main character, Sameera, I’m not creating a strong individual character but rather playing into stereotypes of East Indian women in America. I don’t think I am. Sameera is based more on a couple of women I know personally who actually are Indian immigrants to the US (one is a lawyer, one is a doctor), along with some traits from other women I know and some quirks from my own head (because every character you create, no matter how hard you try, will have some of your own quirks).
The biggest surprise was that everyone at the table said that the story is definitely marketable. I was convinced that it isn’t. Not that I tried to be really deep or anything but I did consider the themes too esoteric, the twisting of Hindu theology too whacked, my character’s revelation at the end too weird and too Matrix-esque for the story to have any hope of finding a home. Now, though, I think I may be otherwise convinced.
"Padma" has some flaws, to be sure. There are typos and malapropisms, cruft left over from previous drafts. The big revelation at the end does not come from within Sameera herself but rather from another character, which makes the story less effective. Some of my descriptions are vague. But now I feel inspired to actually do another draft or two. So far this story has not worn out its welcome. Not yet, at least.