The Great Leap Forward by Keren Heenan
The inspiration for my story in Joiner Bay, ‘Oh, the Water,’ came from listening to the Van Morrison song, ‘And It Stoned Me’. The feel-good nature of the song, the nostalgia and space it conjured, I wanted to replicate that in a short story. Not necessarily to rewrite the lyrics as the story, but to use the tone and the space into which the lyrics carried me, as a starting point. Of course, as is often the way with short stories, I was taken down a different path once I’d established the characters in their setting.
I didn’t have an end in sight when I started the story. In fact I hardly ever do. Occasionally I have the ending, and have to work my way backwards to the start of the story. You have to be as open as possible to any direction the story may take you. If I can’t find an ending that I’m happy with, I assume I’ve probably taken a wrong turn somewhere, ignored the internal prompting that had, at some point, tried to nudge me down another path. I have to then work my way back to find that weak point, feel my way again like a tongue worrying at a sore tooth.
Plot is really the last thing to fall into position for me. Setting and/or characters definitely come first, set the rhythm and tone of the story. Point of view and tense tend to fall into place, although some adjustments may be needed if something feels like it’s just not working.
I could see these two boys, sheltering under a tree with their fishing rods; that was all it took for the rhythm of the story to unfold. Then I just had to fill that with words. And in the right order. Oh, and keep listening to Van Morrison: ‘Half a mile from the county fair and the rain came pourin’ down …’
Keren Heenan has won a number of Australian short story awards, including the Alan Marshall, Southern Cross and Hal Porter awards, and she was placed second in the 2015 Fish Prize. She’s been published in Australian journals and anthologies, including Island, Overland, AWAW, and in Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual (UK) 2014 and Fish Anthology (IRE) 2015.