About The Quality of Booze

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I have a new flash fiction piece, “The Quality of Booze,” up at The Molotov Cocktail, a great online literary magazine for “incendiary” flash. Here’s the story behind the story.

Fast facts
First draft written: September, maybe? (note to self: keep better records)
Number of drafts: around 4
Number of rejections: 2
From submission to publication: 1 month

The idea

beer3I buy my beer pretty consistently at the same liquor store in town and I’m there about once a week. I don’t know whether to feel good or bad about that, but there it is. I have regular conversations with the woman who works there about our taste in beer. She used to hate IPAs, but now she loves them. From time to time, she recommends something new.

One day as I was leaving the store, it occurred to me that if you worked at the liquor store in a small town like this, you’d probably have a pretty good sense of who the alcoholics are. There’d be a kind of power and familiarity there. This liquor store happens to be just down the road from the college, so–

The writing

The story originally began like this:

      Because I work at the liquor store, I know all the drunks and the exact flavor of their addiction or their salvation. It all depends on your point of view.
            We don’t sell much wine. A little beer. We sell a lot of the hard stuff, especially to the drunks.

And it ended like this:

         I wanted to ask one of them–one of the other college people–what had happened to him. They all come through here. They turn their noses up at our wine, but they keep coming. My booze fuels the education of thousands. It’s the motor oil that keeps the engine of that campus running.

I’ve heard other writers discuss this very simple truth–your story is almost always made better by starting sooner and ending earlier. Cut out the first sentence and the last. Very true in this case.

The good, the bag and the ugly

I’ve been writing quite a few stories lately with characters who are–I don’t know, unpleasant? Unlikable? Generally icky? I don’t know what that’s about. Sometimes it’s interesting to try to step inside the minds of people who are not much like you, and maybe it’s as simple as that. Maybe they seem like the kinds of stories literary magazines want to publish. Who knows? I’ve been wondering lately why “literary” as applied to fiction often seems synonymous with “joyless,” “humorless,” and “full of wretched people.” So my next story will be the creative writing equivalent of watching Mamma Mia, which may be “joyless” for some, but not for me.

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