Uncategorized · Writing Snippets & Exercises

Evolution of a One-Shot

Here it is at last in all its glory…

The Baffling Case of Miss Emma Browne

I am so excited to be releasing this!! It’s grown so much from when it first popped into my brain and I’m admittedly quite proud of it. :D I hope you all enjoy it. Thanks so much to Kassia for showing interest and buying me pretty pencils in an effort to make me write faster. :) I love her.

As a fun little … story within a story, (consider it a companion guide) I want to share the beginnings of this “one-shot” to perhaps explain why it took me so very long to get this done.

You probably should read the actual story first, though, because this has a lot of spoilers. So if you haven’t read the story yet: DO NOT CONTINUE THIS POST!!! I’m serious. It’ll make me huffy. Go back up to the link and read the story. THEN you may proceed. This boring explanation of my writing process is your reward for reading over 6,000 words I put together. :P Because that’s how I roll.

The Evolution of a One-Shot


An afternoon in (according to the create-date of the Word document) June, I was entering the mall and I spied several hooligans walking in before me. They were two adolescent males with pants sagging down to their buttocks and ornate belts that were evidently doing nothing for them. This got me thinking about the state of youth in our day. I thought, “If they were caught by Victorians in their current dress and with those hideous manners they’d be tossed into a  madhouse. No one in that century would believe them mentally stable.” Then I giggled. And I thought it would make a great story.


When I decided to put it down into an actual plot I knew it wasn’t going to be chopped up into lengthy chapters. I wanted something short and sweet with a happy end. I also wanted to maintain an air of mystery throughout. I soon realized writing about a man in a nineteenth century asylum wasn’t going to be much use to me because I could always read Dracula if I so desired. Thus the “antagonist” if you will, would have to be female. It made more sense anyway after I thought about it longer. Men were allowed to do quite a lot of things in that century that would have been scandalous for a woman. So a woman in “men’s clothing,” shouting obscenities in the street would certainly cause more of a stir. Being further inspired by Dracula I got it into my head that it all should be written in the style of a dairy by the doctor overseeing her care; reminiscent of a Jack Seward chapter. (One of my literary loves. I want to marry Dr. Seward.)

Fleshing it out

Now that the patient was a female and the doctor a man, there was no way on earth it was not turning into a romance. Many of you may know how hopeless I am in this regard. (The new True Grit is a love story. Just thought you should know.) I don’t recall exactly at what point I decided on the title, but that fact alone means it came much easier than most usually do which made me excessively happy.


I read a lot on asylums and hospitals of the 19th century. I read up on specific cases, the general state of such institutions, and the medical knowledge of the times. I also studied favored authors (for Emma’s reading material), health and hygiene, the Victorian definition of a fever–which included a whole host of things such as cholera, scarlantina, typhus, and influenza–the source of such diseases and the cures that were used, and I even brushed up on Shakespeare and the origins of the kaleidoscope while I was at it. Neither did I neglect searching weather patters in London, circa. 1850 and the small creatures native to that region. (The boy with the snowball was originally going to be a comical squirrel. Except squirrels and Great Britain have an ambiguous starting point for their relationship.) This is one of my favourite–if not the most distracting–parts of writing. :)


For a while I was sure it would take just a few days of rough drafting, a day or two to flesh it all out, and maybe a couple more for editing. All in all it was supposed to take a week. (This is the part where we all laugh at me.) Pretty soon I wanted to expand it. I didn’t feel Emma was developing as a character at a proper pace. I thought of adding more literary references and quotes from things she might have found in his library to keep her origins a mystery. I wanted more of Dr. Lynsford… and the more I wrote of Dr. Lynsford the more he got carried away being sweet. I kept getting snatches of dialogue in my head and adding them to sections that needed expounding. Soon my one-shot had turned into a three-section-shot. Then four, then five…

Finishing touches

Finally, I had ten sections to polish up. I still refuse to make them chapters because this is meant to be a short story. It runs together with breaks only for mandatory pauses. All the American-English words got swapped for British ones. During one fifteen minute interval of editing I added the “Miss” part to the title. I proofread it four times over, hastily wrote up a summary and released my darling into the wild where it is now open to the adoration or derision of anyone who looks upon it.

And there you have it. The journey of this short story.


24 thoughts on “Evolution of a One-Shot

  1. Hey Miss Bethie….. or should I say Miss Bossy! As I read the BOLDREDCAP I hear in my head the beautiful voice of my four year old Man-do-lin saying “You’re not the boss of me!” But, I acquiesced and gave no reason for you to be huffy.

    “…there was no way on earth it was not turning into a romance.” You’re kidding, right?

    Why did you waste so much time researching asylums? Don’t you live in one! :)

    It would be interesting to read what you had finished in one week to compare to the finished product. This was worth waiting for (butdoitfasternexttime).

    Fun journey and (itisadarlingtobesure!)

    Luvubye! :) :) :)

    1. I tried to be chronologically sound and reply to your review before your comment here, but Fiction Press won’t let me!! So lemme try here…
      -I love Browne with an ‘e’ too. :) For the same reasons you gave.
      -Emma as in I needed a name that is/was popular now and in the 19th century, I love the name, and it sounds good in an English accent. (And maybe Jeremy Northam’s Mr. Knightley was on the brain just a little bit. “Eeemmaa…”)
      -Honestly, I didn’t have anyone in mind when I wrote Charles Plack into being. Maybe a little bit of Renfield from Dracula. Man, I want to read that book again. So many beautiful Victorian phrases!
      -Bathrooms are amazing! They’re essential to health and happiness! (Andthey’regoodforcryingspells)
      -:D I call the little ones “duckie” now. I’ve been reading lots of Britishy things lately. FOR RESEARCH!
      -Emma was being a girl. She was wheedling romantical things out of Dr. Lynsford by pretending to be a dunce at romance. :P And that part of your review made me laugh.
      -Gah! Silly ‘to’. I mean… oh, that’s supposed to be like that. It’s symbolic for Emma’s language barrier. :P
      -Aww, yes, but Preston was a last name back then, so I couldn’t use it. ;)
      – !!!!!!!!! :D :D :D

    2. “I’ve heard it both ways.” And I am very pleased that you complied with the red bolded text. :)

      I’m not at all kidding. Inevitably if I give a male and female character lead roles (providing they aren’t blood relatives) there’s a 99.8% chance they’re going to be “an item.” I simply can’t help myself. I lose interest if there’s no promised romance in a story, so why would I write one devoid of such necessary themes!? It has to be a very special non-romantic story for me to even enjoy it.

      Heh. Same crazies, different times.

      I would promise to be faster next time, but I’d make a terrible liar out of myself. So… as always… I will try.

      And thank you for reading all these words and taking the time to review everything! :D

      1. I feel the need to explain my “You’re kidding, right?” comment.

        I didn’t mean to sound incredulous about your never writing a story that wasn’t a romance. It was more meant like, telling us that “…there was no way on earth it was not turning into a romance.” is a lot like telling us that there are trees in the forest that we just walked through, or that the ocean that we just swam in is wet. Or just plain ole Dddduuuhhhh!!!

        Luvubye! :) :) :)

  2. I think I have a reasonable understanding of the English language and probably a better than average grasp of how to put words together to form sentences – but I’m at a loss in using my words here to say how wonderfully done your story The Baffling Case of Miss Emma Browne is. It’s a story that might well have come from a collaboration between that Abraham Stoker guy and Charlotte Perkins. And you did it yourself. My compliments.

    1. That is high praise indeed, and I thank you ever so much for taking the time to read my piece and leave your thoughts. Your comment has made me quite giddy!!

      I’m only vaguely familiar with Charlotte Perkins, but your mention of her made me look her up again. The themes in The Yellow Wallpaper do seem very similar to those in my story. I must read it!!

      1. The Yellow Wallpaper is precisely the piece I had in mind. It has always been one of my favorite short stories. I believe Emma Browne has also found a spot on my list. Well done.

      2. I’m reading it now, and it’s marvelous! And the similarities to Emma Browne are uncanny! If I didn’t know me, I’d think I was heavily influenced by this piece. :)

      3. I look forward to hearing what you think of it, and also of what you think of the line at the end.
        I’ve got out at last,” said I, “in spite of you and Jane…”

        Who is Jane?

  3. I heartily agree with Mr. Gilmore, and I daresay, Byrd, that this is the single best thing you have ever written. And this is coming from the guy who INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE!

    Sorry, I had to throw that out there. :P

    In all seriousness, though, I loved this for precisely the same reason I loved Dracula: the narration. I don’t know what it is, but I have this unique love for journal entries. They feel extremely personal, while at the same time slightly detached; as if you are observing the author observing.

    Whatever the reason, you captured the style with remarkable skill, and I want a PDF version for my future Kindle. ;)

    1. HEHEHEH!! *bounces in seat gleefully* Oh you. :P You’ll never let me forget it now! ;) And thank you, thank you, thank you! xD

      Me too! And once I decided it was in that journal style, words just seemed to flow. It’s much easier writing something you want to read yourself. :) Admittedly, I’ve reread this at least five times since writing it.

      You shall have it, my friend. You shall have it. :)

      1. Of course not! ;) But you’re welcome all the same! ^_^

        I know the feeling! That’s how it was when I was writing the Nameless Man stuff! And don’t worry; I’ve read and reread my stuff countless times. ;P

        Yaaayyyy!!! ^_^

  4. *cue excited squealing* Now is the first time I had time to read the story first (didn’t want to make you huffy!), and I’m glad I waited for enough time to do it slowly and properly! I think I need to go do it again now! ;) This is coming from the person with the hate for romantic stories…
    And this story reminds me of something else that I have read, and argh! it’s happening again! For the life of me I cannot think what it was! ;) One of the heap of Sherlock Holmes that I’ve read, I think.

    I just have to say: Great Job! You got the ol’ British style down to a T! :D

    1. *excited squealing echoes as I join you* Thank you ever so much for taking the time to do so!! Wow, considering your distaste for the genre, I take that as a great compliment!

      If you ever remember, do tell me! So far the other stories it’s been compared to I’ve either read/am currently reading and I’ve enjoyed them immensely!!

      *bows humbly* Again, thank you, my dear. :)

      1. Hmm… my distaste for the genre is not so bad as it once was, but I still have something against all this syrupy, superficial, physical “romance” that seem to be a characteristic of modern books. But in your story, you make it about something more than physical attraction – and I like that very much! :)

        I’ve been thinking about it, and I seemed to have combined elements from different stories in my head that could remind me of yours. The main ones are Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Dying Detective and The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax. It’s mainly the style that is similar, and in lesser amount, the topics. Then I think I combined it with a little Agatha Christie, mainly The Moving Finger. This is getting a little strange… ;)
        Both the Conan Doyles should be available free and legally online, but I doubt the Christie. I hope you enjoy them! :D

      2. Oh my word. Don’t get me started! I hate those too! But see, that’s not my idea of a good romance. A good romance has a great deal of subtlety. No one wants to write subtle anymore, though. It’s all hormones and heaving bodices. So a good romance is few and far between (the bookshelves.)

        Well, thank you! I did want there to be a very reasonable and believable love between them. A mutual partnership, not a primal lust. Although… he definitely finds her attractive. :P Hm. Talking about this makes me want to write another snippet of it from her point of view. GAH!! I have too much to write already!! NAAAOOOOO!

        Excellent!! I’m adding all those to my ever-expanding reading list at once!! :D Thank you, thank you!

    1. *SQUEEEEE* :D :D :D

      Soon as I have a minute, (or a few handfuls of minutes–wait, you can’t hold time!) I’ll put a post together. :) Currently, I’m working on a really, really big post. Plenty of music involved. I think you’ll like it.

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