Adam-Troy Castro visits Pangaea and gets his toe Stuck

By Adam-Troy Castro

517dBviDsyLSometimes, the story sticks its toe in the dirt and tells you it’s not going to go where you want it to go. Most often, the story is right. It knows better than you do. Listen to it. It’s telling you this for your own good. It knows itself better than you do.

Now the backstory. Pay attention.

My original assault on the story that became known as “A Dearth Of Dragons” dropped dead at 2000 words and went moribund on me. If you had asked me on Monday whether it would ever be finished, I would have said no. But the deadline was knocking on my door and on Tuesday I elected to give it another shot. The story remained moribund. Again, it didn’t look like it was going to happen. I was about to throw up my hands, even if that would have cheated a fan who had pledged a hundred dollars to have his name applied to one of the characters.

This is the problem: in my original take on the story, my protagonist, a teenage girl with a yen for storytelling, runs from the escaped convicts. Her boyfriend Partyka is killed. She is knocked out, and winds up adrift in a rowboat without oars, victim of a current leading her out to sea. She is doomed. As thirst and exposure drive her into extremes of delirium, she imagines the distant undiscovered lands of her fantasies, and ultimately dies thinking she sees a new continent on the horizon — a continent we already know, from the anthology’s very premise, must be a hallucination.

This story refused to be written. It kept grinding to a fault at the point where she met the convicts.

Then it suddenly occurred to me that the tragedy I had outlined was the problem; I simply had no faith in it. It was an exercise in futility that would take thousands of words to clumsily steer in a direction that would get less and less interesting the nearer I approached a downbeat conclusion. What ELSE could happen? What if her storytelling ability was not the inadequate comfort of a young girl drifting toward death, but the strength that would enable her to defeat the evil that faced her?


After that, the tale flowed out at 3000 words a day.

Only in the first act does it resemble the story it started out to be. Then better stuff happens.

This is always a surprise to the writer; a welcome surprise.

I’ve always written formidable women. This one wanted to live.

Pangaea is now available in digital and print editions.

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