THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
November 21, 2015
Greetings! This week, beginning on the third Saturday in November, I’m pleased to welcome author James R. Callan, who is here to tell us how he finds joy in writing. But first, as usual, a long-winded introduction by yours truly.
My friend Eileen Obser, a popular writing teacher and editor and the author of the memoir Only You, recently reminded me that one of my brief essays was a repeat from a post that had appeared some time ago on this blog (before my year-long hiatus). It’s true; I admit it. In fact several of my weekly ponderings have been, and will continue to be, retreads, having appeared before on this blog or in the magazine Black Lamb. Some of them are even rewrites of short chapters in my book (now out of print) Structure, Style and Truth: Elements of the Short Story. I first used most of my ideas, advice, and jokes in classes and workshops I taught or led in my teaching days. At some point in the future I plan to assemble all these little essays into a book that I’ll self-publish. I’ll call it (of course) The Joy of Story.
In my teaching days, I presented at a lot of writing conferences. At nearly every one of those conferences, somebody supposedly worth listening to—a teacher, a workshop leader, or a guest celebrity speaker—would tell the assembled writers who had paid money for professional wisdom and advice that writing was mostly heavy labor. Hard, frustrating, lonely work. Blood, sweat, and tears. Not fun. Only a crazy person, a neurotic, an alcoholic, or a glutton for self-punishment would want to be a writer.
My response: Bullll-oney. Sure, writing is work. Of course it is. So is golf, even if you love the game. So is cooking, so is gardening, or painting, or auto mechanics, or woodworking. Or any other pastime that gives you joy. And the more you enjoy it, the harder you work at it, and vice versa.
Writing can be rewarding in terms of fame and fortune, but often it’s not. So what? If you get joy out of writing itself, you’ve already won the game.
What’s to enjoy about writing? I’ll let James R. Callan answer that question. Jim is a prolific writer and a good one.
THE JOY OF CREATING
by James R. Callan
For most of us, the real reward in writing is the pleasure it gives us when we produce a sentence or paragraph that captures what we feel inside. To a non-writer, this may seem silly. Why would writing a good paragraph make you happy? Or it might seem routine. Doesn’t every paragraph you write make you happy?
Over My Dead Body had its genesis in a fight my wife and I had with a company over eminent domain. Keystone wanted to come across our land with their oil pipeline, clear-cutting a swath one hundred and fifty feet wide and a third of a mile long. In the end, they won and the bulldozers came in to push down hundred-foot-tall pine trees, fifty-year-old oaks and large hickories.
I knew right then I would write a book involving the use of eminent domain to seize land by a private, for-profit corporation.
I write murder mysteries. So, I did not write about the Keystone Pipeline because, as far as I know, no one got killed over its construction. Likewise, I didn’t want to directly attack any known entity. As we all know by heart, “All names, characters, places, and events are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to real persons, places, or events is coincidental.”
As time went by and the book began to take shape, I found my displeasure with the pipeline company dissipating and my joy in the book taking over. I used several characters from Cleaned by Fire and it was good to get back in touch with them. Also, I introduced Father Frank’s sister, Maggie, and she made me smile every time she appeared in a scene. A non-writer might find it strange that a character could bring out emotions much like meeting an old friend. But it certainly happens. I had written a suspense book between Cleansed by Fire and this new book, Over My Dead Body. It was good to revisit my friends from the earlier book. And I was very pleased and happy with how Maggie turned out.
Did writing this book give me joy? Absolutely. Were there times when I was frustrated with how the writing was going? Sure. But the over-riding feeling was one of pleasure. I was producing pose that made me happy. Even creating a good “bad guy,” can bring a smile to my face. Developing characters a reader can recognize as real, three-dimensional persons is very rewarding.
So for me, the joy of writing comes from creating sentences and paragraphs that sing in my heart, and creating characters that are real, interesting, and entertaining. I achieved both with Over My Dead Body. I hope the reader will find joy in meeting and getting to know these people, and finding how they deal with the problems they encounter. And when this happens, I get yet another joy from writing.
Over My Dead Body is available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions at: http://amzn.to/1BmYQ0Q. The audio version should be available in early 2016.
After a successful career in mathematics and computer science, receiving grants from the National Science Foundation and NASA, and being listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science and Two Thousand Notable Americans, James R. Callan turned to his first love—writing. He has had four non-fiction books published. He now concentrates on his favorite genre, mystery/suspense. His eleventh book is scheduled to release in 2016.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for December’s 99-word story submissions is December 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for December 12.
Note: this 99-word story feature is a game, not a contest. Obey the rules and I’ll include your story. I may edit the story to make it stronger, and it’s understood that you will submit to my editing willingly. That’s an unwritten rule.
Rules for the 99-word story feature are as follows:
1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot (something or somebody has to change), characters, and conflict.
4. The story must be inspired by the prompt I assign.
5. The deadline: the first of the month. Stories will appear on this blog the second Saturday of the month.
6. I will copy edit the story. The author of the story retains all rights.
7. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to: email@example.com
THIS MONTH’S PROMPT FOR NEXT MONTH’S 99-WORD STORY:
Write a Christmas (or seasonal) story in 99 words, with the following first line: “I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone.” If you follow the rules, your story will appear on this blog December 12.
Thanks for dropping by! See you next week, I hope. Meanwhile, keep reading, keep writing, and work hard at what brings you joy.
|The Joyful Writer and His Muse|