Story Insight: Wrong Number

Most of my story insight posts come out alongside the story they discuss. Usually, that timing is because I have that story forefront in my mind during its release window, and want to share my thoughts on it before they fade away.

But, when Wrong Number was written, I did not have this platform, regular readers, or anything other than an image-first Tumblr. So even if I wrote a post about one of my stories, it would have been useful for very few.

So, here is a post-post mortem on one of my absolute favorite stories.

If I remember correctly, the Wrong Number story came from a singular idea I had, one which went on to be the first of two central story conceits. A missent sexy selfie.

I think that idea came from watching a television show, where a character sent their own half-naked photo to the wrong person. Now, in that show, which I can no longer recall, it wasn’t from one stranger to another, but instead to their mother or best friend or something equally as embarrassing. But something about that idea stuck in my head.

What if the person who received that errant image wasn’t offended or grossed out — taken with laughter or anger. What if, instead, it was received by someone who … for some reason … needed it. Not in a “oh, sweet a hot babe just sent me a picture” way. But something else….

That’s when it all kind of started cascading down like steps in a staircase before me. Renee sends such a picture to a stranger. One who is mired in some kind of personal anguish that deeply affects her. As I swirled that around in my head, I found the models I used for the tale, and judged, by their looks that they needed to be young. Out of high school, but just starting college.

Such a timing, in terms of life, provided a parental-involvement that gave me an opening for drama. The parents are fighting! Or … or … they’re getting divorced! The daughter doesn’t approve! I liked it, and so wrote it. Thinking at first, that Vanessa was going to be embroiled in one personal issue that rendered her desperate for distraction, and that Renee would be involved in her own, separate and distinct issue.

But as I dove into Vanessa’s family issues, I realized that writing an entirely different introduction and explanation for Renee’s own frailties would make the beginning of the story far too long. And I wanted her to be just as beset by troubles as Vanessa. The thought having entered my mind, that making them both hurt and weak emotionally would make them cling tighter to each other — which for this story I wanted.

So, I went back and began to rewrite the tale so that Vanessa was having issues with her mother alone, leaving her natural father as a wounding memory of what life SHOULD still be. Then, I could introduce a man that Vanessa hated. One who was courting her mother, and actually, intended on marrying her. Immediately, I saw the parallels between what I was writing and the movie Step-Brothers, and once I saw the similarity, I turned even harder in that direction. Stealing some of the tone, awkward tension, and irrational commitment to NEVER each of the characters in that film had.

All of those thoughts, changes in plan, and rewrites led me to the dinner scene, in which Vanessa is being told of her mother’s decision to marry this man she dislikes. I had until I got to that moment worried, that I was jamming two stories into one. And that I should keep the sexy selfie idea as one story, and the soon-to-be step-sisters as another. Not only to keep myself from wasting ideas, but to make sure the story I was writing wouldn’t be too complex for a reader to follow.

Heavy though those concerns were, I kept writing. Kept going over the beginning, again and again, until finally, I started writing the arrival of Renee. And when the immediate build-up to that came, I knew.

I loved it — the combination of the selfies and the familial drama.

As it allowed me not to just have the girls dislike each other as potential step-sisters, which was too shallow for the intensity I wanted. No, instead of that, the girls already knew each other — even if they didn’t know each other’s names. They already saw each other as not only rivals, but as … someone who had been intentionally goading them for not days, or weeks, but months and perhaps years (I don’t remember if I set a timeline or not). And with that as backdrop, they were already a match and a can of gas, waiting to explode.

And that, at least in my mind, is exactly what happened when Renee walked in and Vanessa realized it was her. A scene that is my favorite of all those I’ve ever written.

I could barely breathe while writing.

Barely think of anything outside the confines of my Google doc as I had Vanessa shoot up to her feet and bang her legs against the table.

And when they stared at each other in the most intense of silence, I just couldn’t even … anything. I was dying of the anticipation I felt for every word I could get out on the page

That intensity did not lessen as they ran out of the house after each other and then locked themselves into a breathless, jealousy-infused kiss in the front yard. As it was still dripping with emotion.

Vanessa and Renee at that moment both feeling endlessly intense anger, jealousy, rage, and yet a desperate, lust-driving need to distract themselves from what was happening to their families. It was incredible to write. So much so that it makes my heart race even describing it.

But that fevered pitch was, in a way, problematic. As of course, the parents would chase after them. And when they did, they would ruin the moment I had just created and then destroy the intimacy I wanted the girls to have.

Sooo, in an element I use on occasion, I shared that struggle with the reader. I let the characters act out the fear I felt. How can they get away? How do I let them compete in the way they have always wanted, right then — right there, without anyone stopping them?

Have them run. Have them flee their parents eyes. A decision which added a desperation and fear to the rest of their battle, one that existed on top of Vanessa and Renee’s attempts at breaking each other sexually.

As a by-product or more, an inescapable consequence, the girls became more to each other than rivals. More than step-sisters. They were the one person in their entire world who helped them through their darkest moment. Someone who had grown with them with every sexy selfie they had sent back and forth. Someone they knew they could count on, even if they still felt a seizing need to test themselves against one another.

Some call the way this story ended “classic rapture”, and it is. I am a writer, and I do like to create stories for the various sub-fetishes and elements of our community, but this one was mine. My story. My desires. My sensitivity and sappiness run amok.

I love fighting. But I also, love love. Ha ha, as odd as that is to say. And in this story, and War on the 85th Floor, I let that preference run wild. Something I have never regretted.

I know that I will do that again, someday. Even though I know that most of you prefer hate that never ends and violence that never ceases.

1 thought on “Story Insight: Wrong Number

  1. DrewPowell says:

    Well, it’s that time of day to be an egghead again, I would have said para abductionem or inter expiris, since you give us a description in the flow as it happened, just as if it weren’t a past perfect.

    Culture is a crucial factor, and how women can express themselves. Just like with Step Brothers, in a lot of cases it would just lead to fighting. I do have a stepbrother, and his relation with his father was fraught, just as was mine with my own. Our relationship is good, but a lot of it rides on preexisting conditions. For example how I opposed my mother remarrying, and moving far away.

    I’d clarify something: it’s not that I’m attracted to hate. There was this one occasion I flew back on the plane and in the lobby, I discovered a shocking difference between the two nations. Where here people can and do adjust to each other most of the time, or chalk up the other’s crap to personal freedom… after I arrived I could literally feel the stress, the hated “I must go back feeling”. Imagine a company having hundreds of competitive salesmen after the cocaine crash, just as a nation. It’s also not just that we’re negative to each other, no, it’s also coupled with envy toward richer Europeans and a deep-seated discontent toward neighboring nations.

    If I wanted to, I could just churn out stories featuring, say, hot Italian women putting down Greeks, Albanians or generally anyone viewed as a traditional rival. Some powder kegs come with half-lit fuses, so to speak. This is when on the rare occasion I’m asked why I left… I didn’t want live in a cycle of hate anymore. The stories I want to tell are either character or plot-driven where the conflict is personal, but isn’t based on something superficial. Not that I can’t write easy stories like that, but because it blocks from developing a voice for this community that sets me apart from others just enough that what I want to convey can be recognized.


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