Ranking My Own Stories

29 Jan

Needless to say, I was pretty surprised by some of Aaron’s analysis. I knew, for instance, that he wasn’t as big a fan of my funnier stories, but I didn’t realize HOW much he preferred the “serious” ones. (Four of his least favorite five were my funnier stories). That alone will cause a rift between how we view my stories, as I tend to feel my comedy ones have just as much to offer as my serious ones. At least some of them.

Unlike Aaron’s stories, our opinions are quite different on my works. In fact, we agree on #12 and that’s it. So, yeah, I guess that’s my worst story. Outside of that, our analysis is quite different, though some of the reasons why we like/dislike something are similar. Anyway, we’re off:

12. March – “The Efficiency Expert” – We both agree that this is a lopsided story. The ideas weren’t fresh (many were rehashed ideas I’d have from a while ago) and because of that I think I wrote complacently. The sentences themselves are integrated fine, I felt (only one sticks out), but very few of the jokes work. Sneaky Pete Cahoots is pretty good, though.

11. October – “Sleepytown” – I recalled having liked this a great deal when I wrote it, yet it’s at the bottom of the list. Why? Well, I think it got hurt by a few things. Some of the humor didn’t work very well, as this fairy tale would have been better suited to be told more like a straight fairy tale. The bigger problem is that a surprising number of my stories were ‘period’ pieces, and this one was overshadowed by one that was much better that I’d end up writing two months later. So thematically it’s very close to December, but not nearly as good.

10. April – “Leaving Gunite” – Aaron and I both feel that this one is one that it’s hard to actually find yourself caring about the major plot. I think the issue could be that the ending is spoiled in the first paragraph, so it’s just a tale about how they got there. There isn’t any tension and the story could be told better.

9. September – “Seeing the Forest for the Trees” – I was surprised that Aaron liked this as much as he did (6th). Within the confines of what I was given – integrating 9 different character names – and doing it in an inventive way, I was successful. However, if you look at it just as a short story (ignoring the “challenge”), it doesn’t hold up. Two of the “characters”, though, Voluptua and Lark, are quite well written. I’m pleased with them at least.

8. May – “Unbecoming” – This is a decent enough story, but it just has SO much exposition. This would make a better novella or something where it isn’t so relentless with its exposition and where it could be layered in. However, this was a pretty influential story, as it was the first of many period pieces and elements of this would find their way into both Aaron’s and my subsequent stories. My attempt at social commentary ended up being kind of average.

7. February – “Heads of State” – Here is basically the separation between the stories I feel are below average and the ones that I like a great deal. This story is in all ways unbelievable, particularly for one where I did so much research (this was most most heavily-researched story, and not just all about Roosevelt). There are a few continuity issues as well. But I can’t deny that it’s just an incredibly fun read. I had a smile on my face half the time when reading it. Inconsequential but fun.

6. July – “Two Pair” – Aaron’s #2, and I rank it as #6? What’s that? (That will not be the biggest discrepancy between our rankings either). When I reread it, I started out thinking I wouldn’t enjoy it very much for some reason. However, it is very engrossing. I found myself getting captivated (being a poker nerd helps). Where Aaron and I do agree is the interplay between the two major characters is very good. However (and I’m surprised he didn’t mention this), there is a jokiness about some of the narration that just doesn’t fit the vibe of the whole story. I should have kept it only to the dialogue.

5. November – “Sunset at Belham Bay Park” – As a concept piece this worked incredibly well. However, I tried to look at it as someone reading it who didn’t know what our “topic” was. And it still works. It’s engaging, the characters, despite only having 2000 total words to work with, are fleshed out. I’m particularly proud of the actual craft that went into writing this story. The silly accent for the psychiatrist was probably not needed.

4. December – “Birth of the Stone” – This one is my ‘epic’ story, clocking in at a 1000 words longer than any other, and it is a well-composed story. Further, it achieved what I set out to do – writing a prequel to a story that guides the action that happens in the sequel (which was written first) without commanding it. I wanted to provide context for smaller characters, all while creating an origin of the parts of Aaron’s story that were just taken as givens. It wasn’t quite as grandiose as I recalled it was upon rereading, but still a good read.

3. June – “The Exorcism of Anne Foster” – I don’t care what Aaron thinks, this is a damn good story (he ranked this as #11). Yes, it’s silly. Yes, I wrote it as a jab to his insistence on starting it so I wouldn’t be able to make it silly. However, it’s actually fairly structured considering its subject matter – certainly more than something like “The Unusual Suspects” which is equally inane but far less structured. More than anything, I was taken aback by the writing – this is better-written than it has any right (or need) to be. It has good pacing, interesting characters, and more than anything, it made me laugh. I mean, despite having written it, I still chuckled out loud when they wheeled out Mr. Foster.

2. January – “Finding Home” – I was pretty surprised to see Aaron rank this one as poorly as he did (#7) though I have my suspicions why he did. When I started writing it, I wasn’t sure what turns it was going to take, so the first half of the story is uneven and clunky. It was too bizarre to be serious, but too serious to be funny. However, when I start to set the story on the path to resolution, it becomes wholly engrossing and I daresay a great piece of writing. I don’t think I’ll edit this story – I prefer to keep it as is as a testament to the possibilities of this uber-restrictive setting – but I am not against the idea of turning it into a one-act play. I’m very proud of this story.

1. August – “Cornered” – I had forgotten how strong this was. In rereading it and its unusual voice, I found myself getting lost in the story, as if I didn’t know what would happen next. While I do agree with Ashley’s take that the narrator isn’t actually DIFFERENT from my writing style, just a highly concentrated and exaggerated section of it, it IS the most different of anything I’ve written in years. The plot is intriguing and the main character is one of the most fleshed-out I’ve penned. I was surprised myself that this unseated “Finding Home”, which I thought for sure was frontrunner to be my favorite.

If anyone who has actually read all of them  wants to rank our stories (with or without criticisms), I’d be interested in averaging what people think they “best” stories are. Taste is subjective, but trends can at least be found. And screw Aaron, my funny stuff is good too.


Posted by on January 29, 2013 in derek's writing, short story project 2012


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6 responses to “Ranking My Own Stories

  1. Carol Bell

    January 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    Within the week you will receive my rankings. I am a true fan of short stories, and will rank them according to enjoyment and readability. I did print out your ranking lists, but decided to re-read the stories and rank them before I read those lists. I remember having specific favorites when I first read the stories, and wonder if that first impression will hold true.

  2. aaronsbell

    January 29, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    i actually find the fact that we each wrote stories with the sole intention of being a jab at the other person. your june story (purposely making my characters as bizarre as possible) and my december story (pretty much just making fun of your names). one real positive could be taken out of this – at least we didn’t use our original idea to make us characters in the december stories, because i would have written a bloody, bloody end to bubbles and lawrence.

  3. Carol Fanger Bell

    February 5, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Okay, here goes. I have re-read the stories, and not surprisingly, my rankings are quite different from both of yours.


    My least favorite story was July. All those game plays bored me.

    For me, your “meh” stories were March (odd, but humorous) and June.

    Enjoyable were February (initially hard to get into), April, August (disliked language, but it worked with the story), November and December.

    Excellent reads: January (surprise ending), May (lovely story), September, and October

    Aaron, My least favorite story was April.

    Your “meh” story was June- just not one of my favorites.

    Enjoyable were November and December (Love the song)

    Excellent reads: February (fun), March (adorably funny), May (fun), July, August, September and October.

    And my hands-down favorite of all the stories throughout the year- your January story about the house.

    I have truly enjoyed being a part of this adventure, and looked forward eagerly to each month’s contributions. I hope that you come up with another way to showcase your talents.

    Love, Carol/Mom

    • aaronsbell

      February 5, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      i’m laughing a little about my stories. how derek and i both put my june story as far and away my best, but my mom tells me it’s “meh.” I’LL NEVER LIVE UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS, MOM!

      i kid of course.

  4. Carol Bell

    February 5, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I just said that it was not one of my favorites. Considering how many WERE my favorites, you have lived up to and surpassed my expectations! Now I have to go back and re-read the June story.

  5. Carol Bell

    February 6, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Okay, have just gone back and re-read the June stories. Truthfully, I loved Aaron’s first half about the exorcism (truly wacky), but was not as crazy with Derek’s follow-up story. And I had a hard time getting into Derek’s first half of the June story, which is why I didn’t really enjoy Aaron’s continuation.
    As I said, I was not rating for author craft as much as for the entertainment value. And I am not a fan of science fiction, which colored several of my rankings.


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