When I started “The Realtor” my hope was to write a story where the reader wouldn’t feel compelled to judge any one of the main characters for what happens. No one would be blamed for the break down of the family. It would be a true tragedy in that way.
To do this, I started out by using a third person omniscient point of view, which allowed me to better understand and imagine each of the characters. It was helpful in unearthing material, but not much else. Not having any one point of view created too much distance between the reader and the characters and too many missed opportunities to delve deeper into their emotional worlds. Also, Frank, the father, quickly emerged as the most interesting character. Making him a puppeteer opened up a whole world to explore. The other characters were interesting mostly because of Frank.
The problem was I didn’t want the story told through Frank’s eyes. Life was happening around Frank and to Frank. I thought his mystery, his inability to reinvent himself, would be understood best if he was observed.
As an experiment, I rewrote the story in Frank’s teenage son’s point of view. In doing this, I discovered the ending. Knowing the ending helped the story’s structure fall into place. It would be told chronologically and cleanly, driving forward to the ending, heavy on scene over exposition.
Knowing the ending also allowed me to go back and heighten the significance of the puppet scene at the BBQ fundraiser. In that climatic scene, I layered in the narrator’s quiet observations. It’s the moment he realizes he admires his father, when the seed of the life-changing choice the narrator makes at the end is planted.
Natalie Southworth’s award winning stories have appeared in literary journals in Canada and the UK. She lives and writes in Montreal.