A Dull Dough Sours

I am currently putting together a writing sample for graduate school applications. I had thought I would write, rewrite, and revise a short story which had been brewing in the back of my mind since December.  I made it 3/4 of the way through the story, and I utterly hated it. Not in a “wow is this a shitty first draft” way, because that’s normal. It was more of the “I utterly loathe these characters ” variety, specifically: “my narrator is selfish and shallow and there are few character flaws I despise more”. I didn’t like her, and I didn’t like writing her.

A very small part of me wonders if I shouldn’t “tough it out”, and try to find some way to make the character like-able. But for now I’ve shelved the story. It was toxic to me. It had no redemptive quality, as far as I could tell. And I don’t mean the writing was that bad, but that the characters and the story, had nothing which I would value in reading or writing fiction.  There was no hope, no possibility of forgiveness, or change for the characters. No possibility of redemption.

If I can’t write redemptive fiction on some levels, there is really no point for me. I am not so much of a hard core “realist” as I am an optimist who plays at cynicism, or vice versa, depending on the day.  Nonetheless, I need something in the story to counterbalance my cynicism. I need the hope of positive change and transformation to sustain me. Thus, I spent most of the time writing this story  — which had no such hope  — utterly hating it and not wanting to write it.

In the future I may revisit it, but only after I’ve had considerable distance.

I’ve rarely encountered this kind of problem with my writing. It tickles me a little, to learn something new about my own process, what I like and what I absolutely cannot stand. On that level, the story was very productive.

So tell me, readers: have you ever written something you hated, or reviled? And why do you think you hated, or reviled it? Again, I don’t mean in the mechanical, prose level sense, but more in the “there is something in this story which I deeply, personally or morally, loathe”. And how did you handle that problem?

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