Genesis of a Story: Mar 24, 2012

As an experiment, I’ve been posting my notes as I work towards writing my next short story. (There are over 100 of them posted here.) It’s a follow-up to “Unspoken“, the last new story I wrote and uploaded. In that story, a call-center worker named Rahila is fired due to social discrimination when her employer learns that she is single. She soon loses her apartment, but when she goes to a single women’s shelter, she encounters much the same treatment, only this time her age is used as an excuse as well.

That wasn’t the first story I’ve written about discrimination. I had used a science fiction setting in “The A Word” to explore a different order of discrimination, and then followed it up at a reader’s request, in “Edifice of Lies“. “Unspoken” was inspired by a blogger’s personal experiences, and I’m writing this story to explore an idea that she suggested, that a network of men might arise to vouch for single women so that would not get stymied by their culture’s continuing discrimination against them.

In this story, Rahila has made contact with a member of that network, and is having a job interview in a cafe when they are interrupted. Here’s the next part of my notes, which I think will be the last before I start actually writing the story…

How the man reacts to the attack must be reflective of his character, so we’ll need to figure out who he is, starting from what we already know about him, which is that for some reason, he chose to join the network of men in his country who are willing to avert the social stigma associated with being a single woman, especially an older single woman. He therefore not only opposes this discrimination, but is willing to do something about it, which suggests that he has been exposed to people of other cultures, and has probably seen the harm caused to women he knows. Let’s say his sister had been through much the same thing, so he has a personal, emotional reason for doing this.

Next, we need to establish how it was that he came to Rahila’s aid. Among the possibilities: he also worked at the call center where she worked, and knew why she had been fired; or perhaps he was at the women’s shelter she had gone to, and saw her lace into the shelter rep. What other possibilities are there? She could have found an ad or notice about the network, offering help, and contacted him that way? Let’s go with this one and see where it takes us.

Samir Singh’s older sister had been treated horribly by his parents and extended family because she chose to pursue an education and a technical career rather than work in their parents’ shop. They had disowned her and refused to even speak about her. This drove Samir to leave his family as well, vowing to do what he could to prevent such treatment of other women.

Since the backlash against the protector network has just started, it would have been in existence for a just long enough to start getting noticed by people who feel threatened by successful single women. Therefore, Samir could have learned about the network on the Internet and recently joined up. This could be his first time out, so he’d still be unsure of himself in the role.

Knowing that, how would he react when he rises and sees that the incident is being live-streamed? His adversary is a person who has clearly done some research, and has prepared an attack intended to play to the audience. The guy knows details about Samir, and is clever at spinning facts to suit his needs.

Okay. So what’s the guy’s opening gambit? Since his angle is to appear to be protecting Rahila from Samir’s alleged depravity, he’d open by interrupting the interview, addressing the interviewer directly. Something along the lines of “Don’t let yourself be taken in by Mr. Singh’s slick talk, sir. He’s interceding for this woman purely to gain sexual favors from her. That’s his price for making you think that he’s an honorable man and is in a position to vouch for her.”

A rough idea of what happens: Samir would have tried to ignore the chatter at first, as public meetings do have that hazard. But at the sound of his name, he turns to see who it is. He wants to react, but he’s also concerned about hurting Rahila’s chances, so it’s a very awkward situation. The guy is into the third sentence when Samir rises and sees the camera. He tries to deflect the attack politely… We’re conducting business here. If you’ve got something to say to me, I’d be happy to discuss it after we’re done. The guy raises a doctored picture of Samir, insisting that he has proof. The interviewer freaks, gets up and storms off. Rahila tried to get him to stay, then gives up and turns around. She looks incredulously at the picture and at Samir.

I think I’m far enough along to start story now.

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