Strip Mall was a bit of an odd story to write. Partly because I was forcing myself to deal with space constraints--and not even very harsh ones, I'm just used to rambling along until I collapse from exhaustion--but mostly because there's only one character.
When you have more than one character, you can always draw on some element to push along a stalled story. One guy stops, but has to react as someone else does something. There's always someone to pick up the slack. Characters are easy ways to drive plot.
With a single character story you don't really have that luxury. You have two things: the narrator and the environment. And that's all you've got. You have to think of other pretexts to drive along the narrative. It could be conquering the environment, or unraveling a mystery. It could simply be getting from point A to point B.
In this case, Strip Mall seems to have turned into a voyage of self-discovery. The world expands every time Richard passes a turning point, pushes his boundaries or reaches an epiphany. I started out with a very narrow character, who makes a living stamping out identikit prefab neighborhoods and the story ends when he's turned himself into more of an artist.
Now that I think about it, I probably should have called it "Richard Expands His Horizons." Dreadful pun, but that's the way the story turned out. I say "turned out" because I tend to write stories from the details up. I don't often think of "themes" or other broad perspective until I'm mostly done. Or at least, not on a conscious level. That's more of a final draft kind of thing.
Mostly, I started with an idea for a Twilight Zone type of story and ran with it: borderline stereotype of a man thrust into surreal situation, then forced to cope. Add infinite junk food as necessary.
Next up: probably another installment of the Clone City stories. I think Bob's on vacation right now.