That's it for this week. Please come back next week. Make a habit of it. Meanwhile, may your life be full of peace and stability, and if you write, may your stories be riddled with conflict.
Saturday, May 21, 2016
WRITERS SOMETIMES START EARLY
THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
May 21, 2016
Welcome writers. Welcome readers. Welcome anybody who enjoys telling or writing, or hearing or reading, a good story. This blog is devoted to the pleasurable and dedicated art of writing stories of all kinds: short stories, long novels, memoirs true or false, and flights of wild imagination.
So long as the stories are stories, that is. What does that mean? For one thing, a story needs a plot to qualify as a real story. Something has to happen to somebody, and some sort of change needs to happen. Another essential ingredient is conflict. Readers of this blog have heard this so often that I can imagine them wondering when I’ll let go of that rag I keep chewing on like a terrier. Answer: probably never.
To illustrate the point, here’s a short memoir piece about the first story I ever wrote. I’ve related this memory before on this blog, but it comes in handy here, because our guest poster, Augie Hicks, also began writing at an early age, and from the description of her first published novel, and from the excerpts she shares with us, it's clear that she has a built-in passion for conflict and trouble. Read on.
My First Story
by John M. Daniel
Not long after I learned to read (I cut my teeth on The Wizard of Oz), I developed a strong urge to tell stories of my own. That is: I wanted to write! If Mr. Baum could do it, why couldn’t I?
I decided to write my first story when I was five or six years old. I borrowed a pencil and a piece of paper from my mother and asked her what I should write my story about.
“Write about what you know about,” she advised me.
So I did. The story came out something like this: “Johnny and his mother went to the circus. They saw clowns. They had fun. They came home. The end.”
My mother was proud of me. (Of course. That’s what mothers are for.) But when I showed my story to my brother, Neil, who was nine years older than I, he said, “It’s not a real story. A real story needs conflict.”
That put me in a quandary. At the age of six, I had no conflict in my life, so I couldn’t write a real story if I were to write about what I knew about. That put my writing career off for another ten years or so.
Then I started reading the novels of Richard Bissell, and I thought to myself: I can do this. I tried it, and I found I was right: I could do this. By that time I was a teenager, so of course there was conflict in the life I knew so well; it goes with the territory.
Elmore Leonard said that 70% of what he knew about writing came from reading the novels of Richard Bissell. So you can believe me when I say that Bissell is worth your time. But it doesn’t have to be Bissell. Find your own favorite writer and write something that writer might want to read.
Once I got started, I never stopped. The first fiction I wrote wasn’t worth the wear and tear on my typewriter, but I got some stories published in little magazines, and eventually my first novel was published–by Perseverance Press! I dedicated Play Melancholy Baby to the memory of Richard Bissell (and Lorenz Hart, another one of my writing heroes).
I haven’t supported myself with my writing (not many writers do), but I’ve never stopped writing, and in the meantime I’ve worked in the written word: as a student, a reader, a bookseller, an editor, a ghostwriter, a fiction writer, a publisher, and a teacher of creative writing.
I owe it to my mother, my brother, and mainly to other writers–Bissell, Leonard, and many more. And of course to my readers.
Thank you, dear readers!
Augie Hicks writes under the name A. H. Scott. She has been a writer almost since she first grasped the concept of writing. In grade school she rewrote Charlotte Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew for her classmates to perform. Writing has always been her passion. She writes in multiple genres, including Victorian Thriller, Mystery, Western Thriller, YA, Tween Mystery, and non-fiction. Fanaman Curse is Augie’s first traditionally published novel.
Here’s what Augie has to say about the joy of story:
I believe the joy of story resonates deep within the soul of a writer, wherein we have the need to share. Perhaps the story is not always as deeply felt by the readers as it is by the writer, but there are always those who hear the echo.
When I write I try to look for truth by researching the people, locations, and time periods that I write about, whether the story is fiction or non-fiction. I investigate in my mind the circumstances that follow a murder, or the tools used to commit a crime, or how the protagonist weaves his or her way through the journey of self-recovery, or how the antagonist tries to prevent the protagonist from achieving his or her goals. Often one or more of these components are set in motion while I am creating plot, developing characters, and describing the setting.
I know that if I don’t hook the reader in the first ten or so pages, then the reader won’t get into the story. I try to drive the story forward by making the reader think or care about the main characters. If they don’t care, then why read any further? I’m quite comfortable with this method, even though it may not work for all stories.
As I wrote Fanaman Curse, I discovered death, despair, duplicity, and hatred surrounding the inhabitants of Fanaman. Death occurs aboard a luxury liner as it sails across the Atlantic from the East Coast of the United States, bound for the coast of Spain. One of the characters’ royalty is revealed. As the tale unfolds, murder, ghosts, lies, and truths are exposed.
The cover of Fanaman Curse was charcoal drawn
by one of my daughters, AliciaRose
She only knew that something was dreadfully wrong…
Charlotte dressed with haste behind the brocade dressing divider in her bedroom. “I need to get out of this cabin before he comes back. I’ll walk along the deck. It’s important that I be around other people instead of being alone. I really need to find deGraffy. Who do I trust?”
The ship docked, but Charlotte was not going ashore.
“DeGraffy will tell me the truth—if he’s really Papa’s friend.”
Finding him was number one on her list of things to do. She had to inform him that someone had been in her room, twice. She would tell him about the strangeness of the cabin steward, how he treated her and the splash that awakened her. She tried to blink away her tears as something blew into her eyes.
“Now I remember…the outer lights in the corridor were on. But when the intruder was in my room earlier, the outer corridor was very dark. That was why I could not make out who was there. The flash of light I saw appeared to have come from the corridor, maybe a torch. I’m not sure. Perhaps there was more than one person working together. What did he want...all I know for sure is that it was dark.”
The death of my little brother when we were children still haunts me. I cannot see who is coming towards me. Hands white as snow dripping icicles puncture the ground. They fall leaving blankets of bloody footprints going nowhere, leading everywhere. The sounds of screaming geese off in the distance awaken me to a cold sweat, never remembering what truly happened. I fall back to sleep after many hours to be awaken once again as if drowning in the sea below. Something keeps holding me down. I cannot climb up Heaven’s Stairway. I scream to the woman in white who is running down the rocks. She does not see me. She plunges headfirst into the black abyss. Never screaming—just quiet. Mother says my brother’s death was an accident, but no one will tell me.…
Calling all published authors—
I feature a guest author the third Saturday (and week following) of each month. If you’re interested in posting an essay on my blog—it’s also a chance to promote a published book—email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call for submissions: Your 99-Word Stories
The deadline for June’s 99-word story submissions is June first. The stories will appear on my blog post for June 11 and remain there for one week.
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 story containing or inspired by this sentence: “I came home to a place I’d never been before.”