Story of the Story: Face Change

How far would you go to change your life?

Face Change was my first real foray into horror. I'd written a few other things, mostly as a young adult, that were meant to be scary, but this was the real deal. I'd previously written a short story about a cannibal in a pizza place, and it was okay, but nothing like this. 

Face Change is a story about a man, unsatisfied with his life, who gets the opportunity to change it. There are elements of magical realism in the story, as the only two supernatural elements are a TV host who talks to him, and a box full of faces.

The story was inspired because I, like so many men, am fascinated by the idea of using a straight razor to shave. And, like most men, I've cut the crap out of my face shaving on an occasion or two. The logical procession of this thought is: what if I peeled a whole slice off my face?

Thus, Face Change. What if, instead of a slice, it was your whole damn face?

The idea was just squicky enough, just cerebral enough, and just weird enough. I set about writing the story and shopped the first draft out a bit. I got mostly positive responses from friends and family, particularly that it was just gruesome enough (I describe a man slicing his own face off, for goodness sake, it only has to be so graphic.) The motivation of the character is believable.

The sales pitch was pretty good, too.

Story finished and approved by friends and family, I looked for places I wanted to submit it, and the natural venue, to me, was Pseudopod, a wonderfully produced show of narrated horror stories. I wanted desperately to get onto their podcast when I first heard about it and started listening to stories. 

I received the news sometime later that I had been accepted for publication. I was so excited! It was my first piece of published fiction. I can't describe that feeling, that amazing sense of validation a first-time writer felt when his story was accepted to be published as a real-deal piece of fiction. It was exhilarating! I didn't hear much else about the story or its production, and finally, after much waiting, I got the notice in an email that my story was coming up on a new episode.

I downloaded the episode with much anticipation, and listened to the host's calm, British voice purr as he introduced my story.

And then something even more amazing happened: my narrator was Anson Mount, an actor with a hit show on AMC. He did such an amazing job (everyone involved in the production of the story did!) and I was just stunned, and humbled, by the experience. I can't describe how happy I was, and how thrilled.

Face Change is an okay story, and I would write it much differently today. But for the time, it was the right story at the right place. And it was my first step into my publishing career, the first time I felt comfortable saying "I'm a writer," to people.

It was a good feeling.

 

Jeff Hewitt