from Measuring Time: “Roundabout”

The story takes its title from the Yes classic, “Roundabout,” a song that has stuck with me ever since my freshman year of high school when I bought a cassette of Fragile. In the opening scene, two characters–college freshmen–are having a disagreement over the song. The main character is Timothy Ford, also the protagonist in the story “Wildlife.”

The latter story takes place 14 years later when he is a university professor at the small institution where he was an undergraduate. Timothy is a main character in three other published stories (that do not appear in this collection). You can read one here at Barren Magazine, and read one here at Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. I also have another dozen stories with him as the protagonist; in fact, it’s a future book project to publish them as a novel-in-stories.

This piece got its start from a prompt I was working on with my creative-writing students. It is my practice in the classroom to try any prompt I assign my students, and so seven years ago, while my students started writing their introductory paragraphs, I concocted this idea.

Of course, the story is about more than a disagreement over a song. An accident occurs, which I hadn’t expected, and as is often the case when I write, I am just as surprised as my characters by what happens. The story ends in a way I couldn’t have anticipated from that first draft’s opening paragraphs. For me, the surprise is much of the fun of writing.

I admire writers who can plan out what happens in a work of fiction. I can’t. Or rather, I don’t wish to, at least not in any detailed or elaborate manner. In working on the second draft of a novel right now, I have a very loose idea of the plot and overall shape of the story, but I’m not strongly attached to much. I prefer to have an open hand when drafting and revising.

I’m proud of how “Roundabout” has turned out from that early scene, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with readers when Measuring Time & Other Stories is released this fall from Wiseblood Books.

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