Writing Stories

There’s a curious thing that happens when one is confronted with the intimidating and foreboding task of writing a novel. The first thing I thought of was that it would be a great way to tell a great story. But then I couldn’t think of any stories that would take over 50,000 words to tell. Of course, The Story is the only one that I figured I’d put to paper, for it’s a good one, but then you get into that whole changing the names to protect the innocent thing, and the question of how much truth do you want “out there” about your own relatively recent history is there too.

A couple of years ago, when I decided that I wanted to be a writer, I came up with some snatches of my “history” and decided to just be writing those. Stories about my hat, my middle child secretly decimating tomatoes and getting busted, my office job and the train rides to and fro, and any manner of stories from my childhood all came streaming out in a series of Word Documents that I cleverly formatted with a blue background and white text, because I knew it was easier on the eyes while reading the words off a screen (back in the days of the CRT screens particularly).

Then, in my mind’s meanderings across numerous lined pieces of paper, I sketched out even more stories that I thought were worthy of telling, something that I could put in real form, and then it hit me. So I wrote down what hit me, “Tell Stories – Lots of ’em! > Get a bunch of the good ones together > Make them into a book!” and then I grabbed the nearest clean piece of paper, one of my business cards, and wrote on the back “Write Something”. This became my mantra.

Of course, over the years things can make this task falter a bit here and there. And by “a bit” I mean my whole life sometimes decides to go up and down and sideways, like a dog shaking the shit out of a chewtoy. I won’t write out the laundry list of things, but suffice to say I didn’t always have “it” to sit down and Write Something. But I always wanted to.

Then a friend of mine, an old friend who used to be a co-worker and is probably one of my more favourite people on the planet (of which there are fewer than 50… maybe 75, so if you factor in people like my High School Chemistry teacher, my mother, my wife and John Mayer that’s really saying something), wrote me an email not long after his wife found me on Facebook. He’d always been into writing, usually creative powernerd stuff like role-playing games and sci-fi whimsicalations, but in recent years he’d written a book. He happily told me about a writing buddy that had challenged him to knock out a novel in 2 months. They picked a start date and an end date and taunted and shit-talked each other mercilessly until they’d finished.

And just like that, he’d put in some hard work meeting the weekly deadlines, sometimes NOT meeting them I’m sure which no doubt invoked the wrath of his buddy and repeated use of the word “pussy”. But he had a novel. An original work, something to be proud of, and something he could get published. Recently it has been explained to me that this is really only about one-third of the work ahead, for there is the revisions, oh the endless revisions! And then there’s finding a Literary Agent, and then they have to try and find somebody to publish it, it’s really all quite exhausting.

But, he’s doing it, and that’s something not a lot of people can say, though many, MANY want to. He also mentioned that he thought I was a good writer and that we should take up the same challenge so he could knock out another book. While I couldn’t’ remember him ever reading anything of mine, flattery will get you everywhere and I got excited. A few months passed, and more of Life’s Shit happens to me, but not long after he emailed me again and said that he really means it and we should get writing. Bolstered and energised by someone else’s energy, I said “Fuck yeah!” and we got on it. He invited in his crew and I brought in my sarcastically sardonic and disproportionately talented brother-in-law, the Doc.

And now we’re all doing it. Granted some of the Writing Boys have faltered and decided that Life Shit is winning for this round, but they’re still trying. The Doc is even making me proud by taking the somewhat random character creations that he’s used to, having only written for Live-Action Role-Playing games previously (what IS it with me and powernerds?), and weaving them together into a somewhat cohesive story. My old friend is writing something that’s still sci-fi-tastic, but I’m very much enjoying just because he’s quite captivating and writes different people extremely well. His first book is a teenage girl and a middle-aged carny that solve murders, and it’s EXCELLENT, so I’m really looking forward to when he’s published and making a mint so that I can scab beers off him at writer’s conferences.

Me? I’m writing a variation on the Love Story that brought me to Australia. It’s fiction, which was easier, and it’s idealised, which is more romantic, and it’s not really The Love Story so much as it’s a story about a boy whose got a unique take on a life in which things happen. He’s got stories, this boy, and I’m telling them one chunk at a time. The 6,000-Word Goal by midnight every Monday is great because I can tell a story in 1 or 2 thousand words and then I only have to tell 2 to 5 stories before that week is done.

The best part about telling stories is that you can weave in enough personal history so as to keep relevant to the overall plot, but you can use different stories to give a “feel” to the flow of the book. If it’s been too funny for too long, then something serious or sad can be put in, and vice versa. The character development and plotline can be sprinkled into just about any story that I’m telling, and there’s always good ones to tell.

Think about it, if you look back over the past month of your life, I bet you’ve got at least 5 stories in there that are worth telling. The time you went to the grocery store and the lady with the 5 kids all under 6 years old was walking around with her tit hanging out. Or the time you were at your mother-in-law’s 60th birthday party and the only cakes were made by two of the manliest men there and how much the crusty old gals liked that fact. Or how you answered the door to the electrician wearing a pirate hat, and how he told you all about “hurling” in his native Ireland in an accent that made you feel heart-giddy for a Guiness and more stories.

See, lots of stories happen to us. Well, they happen to me anyway, and I’ve started writing them down. And I’m taking the good ones, and I’m making a book out of them.

And in the mean time, I’m going to post some of the other stories that I’ve written, just for documentation’s sake, and to gather input and feedback and good-feelings and butt-strokings from randoms so that I can get a feel for what yet another book should be about.

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