Beyond the Lake Prize: “Boots on the Ground” by Tyler Barton

We asked the winners of the 2016 Lake Prize (featured in our Winter 2017 issue) about their work and the inspiration behind their stories. Read about all of the fiction finalists and the poetry finalists.

Fiction¬†runner-up Tyler Barton discusses his story “Boots on the Ground.”

Tyler Barton: I began working on “Boots on the Ground” in the way that I most prefer to begin working on stories – with a line I just couldn’t get out of my head. The line was: “I’m in the wrong house.” It seemed like such a perfect place for a story to start. It’s like: the character has already fucked up, and now you have to watch as they make things even worse. As I began to work on it, I knew that I’d have to figure why the character ever entered the wrong house in the first place, and, more importantly, why – emotionally and psychologically – this character needed to be in the wrong house.

The first was a fun and easy problem to solve. Having spent my first winter in Minnesota, I had gotten used to walking backward from campus to the parking lot. The wind here is insane. I’d hide my face from the wind by putting my back to it. So this is the practical reason I used for the character ending up in the wrong home – it’s a blizzard and he wasn’t looking where he was going. The second was tougher, and took a lot of writing, learning, listening, and thinking through depression.

An interesting revision note is that I wrote about 5 pages of this story in first person before I decided it needed to be 3rd. 3rd is hard for me. But I think it helped me get the proper distance on this screwed-up character. Being directly in his head was too dangerous, and was making things less funny.

Lastly, I’ll say that my favorite part of this story is when Ryder, standing above Fitz, yells “We’ll put you in a bowl of rice!” and I don’t know why. Every time I think of this story that is the first thing that pops into my head.

Purchase a copy of the Winter 2017 issue of Midwestern Gothic.

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Tyler BartonTyler Barton is one half of FEAR NO LIT. He lives in Mankato, Minnesota where he serves as a fiction editor for The Blue Earth Review and a host of the local radio show, Weekly Reader. His fiction has appeared in NANO Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and others. Find his stories at tsbarton.com. Find his jokes at @goftyler.

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