Published January 20, 2013 by rochellewisoff

One of the things I love about writing is the process of finding my way to the finished product. At times it’s as hard as trying to bend iron with my bare hands. (Nope probably will never master that.) It’s a wrestling match with words. 

May 18,2012. when I was one of the new Friday Fictioneers on the block, I wrote my 6th flash fiction, MIRACLE. I was still pretty green when it came to writing a short-short with a beginning, middle and end.  Some of you may remember this picture and have your own stories to go with it.


Merciless rain pelted the Conestoga’s canvas roof. Tildy’s stomach swelled and roiled with each pitch and sway.

Three-year-old Jonas whimpered in her arms. Like periwinkle marbles, his eyes rolled in aimless delirium. She almost welcomed his fevered warmth in the penetrating damp.

The wagon lurched and stopped. Smelling of horses, leather and wet denim Noel slipped through the narrow opening. In silence, his vigilant eyes on his son, he nestled under the blanket beside her.

Tildy woke to hushed sunlight. Her baby was gone.

Outside, naked as dawn, Jonas hopped and pointed at the rainbow. “Ma! Pa! Angels came!”


Why rewrite?

Most of the comments were favorable and polite. But some of them have niggled at me for months:

“Dear Rochelle,

This was hard to work out and being the first to comment (I think) I don’t have the crutch of other’s opinions to help me out. When Jonas says the angels have come, was it that they’d come for anyone specific? Or just touched the earth and left their heavenly colored trails as a sign. Did Jonas’ fever break? No one died, did they?A lovely story, full of imagination and pathos. I loved the ‘Periwinkle marbles’. Great stuff.


And this one:

“Am I so wrong in hoping that he was actually still alive and just telling them excitedly of his fever-induced dream? My fingers are crossed.Poignant and sad.”

And another:

“I honestly thought that her baby had died (“gone”) and that he was dancing with the angels.”

By the end of the comment thread I’d recapped and explained at least five times. So to my obsessive perfectionist’s mind this is unacceptable. 



Merciless rain pelted the Conestoga’s canvas roof. Tildy’s stomach roiled with each pitch and sway.  

Three-year-old Jonas whimpered in her arms. Like periwinkle marbles, his eyes rolled in aimless delirium. She almost welcomed his fevered warmth in the penetrating damp.

The wagon lurched and stopped. Smelling of horses, leather and wet denim Noel slipped through the narrow opening. His vigilant eyes on his son, he nestled under the blanket beside her.


Tildy woke to hushed sunlight and empty arms. She bolted upright and searched.

Outside, naked as dawn, Jonas skipped and pointed at a rainbow.  “Ma! Pa! Angels came!”  

38 comments on “STORY REVISITED

  • As a person who didn’t read it the first time, I would have been happy with the first version, but I see the seond is clearer and I think ‘woke to sunlight and empty arms’ is a powerful phrase and the contrast between the happy image and the potential terror of loss strikes a mother’s heart.


    • Dear Anne,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I personally can only imagine what the pioneers crossing the country in covered wagons endured. The helplessness of tending to such a sick child would be unbearable.


  • The first one was clear enough to me, but I fully understand your desire to be perfectly clear! I loved your writing in both of these, and am most relieved that it wasn’t MY angel who visited little Jonas! 🙂


  • Your initial plan for the story came through more effectively in the second piece. But that’s also what I took from the first story when I read it. So in that sense, your re-write worked better, although I would have kept “roiling” instead of “swelling” to describe her stomach. “Swelling” in conjunction with a woman’s stomach always makes me think that she’s pregnant. “Roiling” gives a better impression of her stomach being upset.

    That would make it seem that the first story is better. However, given the penchant for open-ended stories in the FF group, I think the first would be enjoyed and used for just the sort of speculation we all enjoy. 🙂 And since your title is “Miracle”, that would seem to indicate that Jonas was cured. But again, given how you felt about it, the re-write works better.

    Seeing how long the Fictioneers have been around, I regret having missed so many weeks!



    • Dear Janet,
      I know what you mean about missing so many weeks of Friday Fictioneers. I’m not sure when it started. I came in on April 12 to see if I could do it. Now when I go back and revisit some of the comments, I recognize some of those strangers who commented as friends. When I posted that first story I certainly didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into! (Glad I did!)
      Point taken on her stomach. I changed swell to roil but am not sure churn might not be better since his eyes roll in then next sentence.
      Since my litmus test is if my stories can be understood without the photo prompt I prefer my second version.


  • Rochelle,
    I didn’t read the original at the time, but yes, the second is much clearer. Honestly, I sometimes don’t clearly understand some people’s Friday Fictioneer stories, however, I never say anything critical because I don’t know anyway well and don’t want to offend anyone. I think we all have a clear idea of what we want to say, but the length restriction means we have to be very efficient; so efficient the meaning suffers sometimes. It’s a wonderful practice in minimalist writing though. I always appreciate constructive criticism, by the way, since I really just want to improve in my writing.

    Anyway, I really loved both, but I’m glad you did that little extra edit for more clarity.


    • Dear David,
      I hear what you’re saying. And the truth is that there are some who really don’t want the constructive criticism. I try to get a feel for the writer over time (if they keep coming back) before saying much. So you’re probably wise.
      I appreciate your honesty. I hope, that if a story of mine is confusing to you, you will say so. There’s always room to grow.
      It is a challenge to cram an entire story into a hundred words but it can be done and, from what I’ve seen, you do it well.


      • One thing I appreciate about the Friday Fictioneers group and with the blog in general is how everyone is so warm and supportive with their comments, even those who occasionally do give constructive criticisms. It’s a welcome change from other places on the Internet.
        I’m glad Amy at the Bumble Files invited me to this group. I look forward to sharing more with everyone in the future. 🙂


  • Rochelle, the second rewrite is definitely better. I remember this story of yours as I was on board with the Friday Fictioneers too, by then. The last comment in the first version reminded me of one I made, similar to that one, or maybe that was mine. Ha Ha. 🙂 Anyway, I think the rewrite is better, more concise. I remember thinking that the ‘baby’ in the first version was another child separate from Jonas, but wasn’t was it? Jonas was the only child in this story.right? I have gone over a lot of my larger, longer stories (not the FF ones) and rewrote and revised them all so many times, to get them right. Wayne reads mine and gives me good feedback on those, but it is my FF stories he likes the most. As I have often said in my own blog, writing is a craft we work at, and never perfect I think, as much as we try. At least that is true in my case.


    • Dear Joyce,
      I don’t think the comment was yours. There were a few comments where I didn’t recognize the author. Doug’s we always recognize 😉 and his was so in depth I copied it in its entirety.
      Like Wayne with your flash fictions, Jan thinks mine are some of my best writing. He overwhelms me with effusive praise sometimes…and that’s okay.
      Yes, Jonas was the only child in the story.


  • Dear Rochelle
    I missed the first version as I hadn’t yet heard about FF, but reading through both versions now, I prefer the second one. I think you have accomplished what you set out to achieve with the rewrite.


    • Dear Dee,
      Glad you dropped by and I’m glad you joined FF. I, too, prefer my second version. And as I’ve learned since writing the first mammoth draft of my novel that over time has lost 40,000 words, we’re not writers. We’re RE-writers.


      • Dear Rochelle
        I’m so glad I joined FF and found all the wonderful writers. It was a bit daunting to start off with, but I look forward to each Wednesday now to get the prompt from you.
        It is a challenge to get the FF stories down to 100 words, but having to remove 40,000 words is an enormous task and a challenge I hope to have, one day perhaps.
        Take care


  • Hi Rochelle,
    I’m definitely going to be in minority here when I say that I liked your first one better. I liked that the story could be evolved more in the first one and taking it in any direction. Readers can interpret it with their own imagination – a sad twist or a happy ending. With the second version although I like the clarity of what’s going on, it somehow ends there. Maybe it’s just me who prefers open endings or maybe some stories are best left open-ended for interpretations.
    Having said all this, you certainly have done a great job in providing more clarity. And to me the original version definitely doesn’t look like your 6th flash fiction at all.. 🙂


    • Dear Muzer,
      I appreciate and respect your opinion. It’s always good to see both sides. I guess I’m more of a “tie up the loose ends” kind of person when it comes to a story.
      Thank you for the compliment. I was hooked on flash fiction from the first one I posted on April 12.
      This conservation of words has spilled over into my other writing as well. Because of FF I was able to write a concise synopsis of my novel.
      Glad you joined us.


  • Yes, the second version is clearer but there is more poignancy in the first one. I believed he lived – I guess some of will prefer the old version and some the new…it is ever thus.


  • Rochelle, I aremember this story from way back. For me, I think both work well. The title of the first one says it all and the second one is clearer. Sometimes, the fun of FF is in the guessing and interprating a story whichever way makes sense to the reader, much like poetry.

    However once the second one sits well with your perfectionist’s pov, then it is well. 🙂


  • For me, you did not need to change a thing, Rochelle. I felt dread when I heard he was gone, but knew he was fine, and now well, when I read the last line… I think the ‘naked as dawn’ sealed it.

    I remember the photo, but not if I wrote one that time. I do remember reading your story, because of the Conestoga… my great-great grandparents came to California that way.


  • I can’t remember this story from before, Rochelle, but I like both versions. The original makes sense to me as you intended; I think the change to “healthy and smiling” is almost too obvious, but I like all the other changes. I too had wondered if the “swelling” stomach was supposed to be pregnant (not that that’s necessarily a problem – baby on the way as well as an ill toddler makes it even more stressful). Either way, great little story. And as you say – a complete story in itself, without the pictrue.


  • I’m one of those that never saw the original version when it posted. That having been said, I like both versions and got the same meaning from them, but agree that the second one reads much clearer. You’re a beautiful writer, Rochelle. I appreciate you sharing this little process with us. And I think you said it so very well when you called us re-writers. We sure do a lot of that, don’t we?


    • You never know, Scott. Although at the moment, between my own and a few sent ones, I have enough to keep us in prompts. Personally, I like the second version better, too. I appreciate all the helpful comments.


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