About Think Fast by Michael Greenhut

"Think Fast" was the first story I wrote at Clarion South 2007. I have other blogs where I detail the life and times of my Clarion days, so I'll skip that and summarize by saying I wrote the first draft of this story in three days and with very little sleep.

Stories come to me in two ways--as characters, or as ideas. "Think Fast" was an idea story, and, initially, I had a science fiction theme in mind--a scientist builds a machine that sends this man's thoughts back in time. I knew time travel was as prevalent in science fiction as capes and tights were in super-hero fiction, but that it almost always involved human beings traveling back and forth. There wasn't a whole lot out there about more abstract items--such as human thought--taking the journey. My placeholder title for this story was "Save"--I compared the idea to saving data, altering data, restoring lost data on a computer.

Somehow, during those blurry and bleary evening hours in my Griffith University Clarion suite, I tossed the mad scientist idea out the window and channeled a far more personal route to my protagonist's time-altering powers. This is a natural trend for me, since I'm primarily a character writer and, even for stories that come to me as ideas, I tend to chip away at extraneous details until I discover the central character and his/her true motivation.

My first draft was around 1600 words. Lee Battersby was my instructor for that week, and I'd heard that he was a tough critiquer who didn't pull any punches. Being a sucker for punishment, I volunteered to put my story up first. He told me it was excellent, but that it needed a few more scenes, and that a few lines here and there could be tightened. He also explained the "rule of threes" to me--any significant symbolism should appear exactly three times in a story for maximum impact.

So I added a little more to the next draft--the "accidental" murder scene, the scene where he remembers the televangelist "talking like he was about to sing", and some other tidbits, one of which involved the turtle.

I submitted the final version to a few places--F&SF, Strange Horizons,Baen's--and got bounced. I submitted it to GUD, noticed one day that I hadn't heard from them in weeks (they almost always respond immediately), then saw my story's status change to "short-listed." Months passed, and...you know the rest.

I never viewed "Think Fast" as Horror, or intended it to be such--just slightly-dark Fantasy. But I still couldn't complain when it received an honorable mention in Ellen Datlow's "Year's Best Horror" Volume 1.

What's next? My original dream of being a writer involved mostly novels with the occasional short story relating to those novels. I'm getting back on that track now, just finishing up the first of hopefully many novels to come. I haven't ruled out turning "Think Fast" into one of those.