Terminal Romance is my second short story collection. Twenty interlinking stories about virtual relationships, reoccurring characters, connections and disconnections, unfulfilled romances, online chats, serial blind dates, and the exploration of what is real and what is simulated.
Over the years the book has taken on various forms, starting life as a single story, then morphing into a novel, then becoming a hybrid-novel-slash-stories (inspired among other things by David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten), finally ending up as a collection of short stories.
Novel versus stories
One of my problems was my struggle with disjointed narrative and structure. Characters kept recurring, themes were prevalent, timelines were similar; I thought I should put it all under a single umbrella.
It was necessary to attempt to write the book as a novel first, before understanding that the voices, timelines and points of view, no matter how interlinked, were better told as individual stories. It was certainly a lesson.
You may put in all the effort and have the best intentions, but sometimes it really is the material that determines how the story is told.
At one point there were dozens of index cards strewn across the floor, tables and chairs of my house. They occupied every surface. Hundreds of potential ways of ordering the book. For months I lived among the cards, carefully moving them when I wanted to watch television or have dinner, then carefully placing them back again. I finally got fed up and threw them in the trash.
I decided that chronology was definitely not something that played a major part in the narrative. For one, it was driving me crazy. Also, it forced me to add sections that didn’t sound genuine. I found myself inserting obvious plot points like breadcrumb trails all over the manuscript.
When I decided to make Terminal Romance into a collection, the chapters had to be whittled to be sleeker, smarter, and to stand alone, which meant I had to remove the bridges and deflate the fatty material.
I'm all about the non-linear narrative. That's not something I'm saying to make me seem quirky. I genuinely believe stories almost never occur in order, and often there are more than a few characters speaking at the same time, challenging the notion of truth. This may be due to my Latin American upbringing, where storytellers are always competing with one another - and let me tell you, everyone, from the youngest member of the family to the eldest, is an expert storyteller.