THE JOY OF STORY
John M. Daniel’s Blog
July 2, 2016
Greetings, story fans. Welcome to the month of July. It’s time to wave a flag, swim in a pool, eat cold watermelon, drink iced tea or gin & tonic, seek shade, and turn on the air conditioner. I’m all for the cooler activities I just listed for this hot and sweaty month. As for flag-waving, though, I plan to be selective and cautious about when and where and at whom I flash the colors. I’m committed to my choices, but I’m aware that this particular July will be a month when temperatures will reach record heights (did anybody just mention climate change?) and tempers may get lost in the kerfuffle. I’m going to stick to my guns (oops, I take that back), stay cool, and steer clear of hot-button issues.
Really? Nah. What about conflict?
I’ll save it for my stories.
And if I find myself caught in a conversation with someone who’s backing the dead-wrong candidate, or espousing a vile cause, why I’ll just gently and politely respond that ours is a free country, at least for the time being, and if people must be blithering idiots, I must respect their right to be 100% wrong, but for the sake of serenity I would greatly appreciate their keeping their fetid opinions to themselves.
And if that doesn’t shut them up?
I’ll respectfully turn my back on them and high-tail it to my computer and write a fiction in which some fatuous, flatulent fatso who thinks like a Neanderthal and brays like a hyena gets sick or run over or shot and dies slowly and repairs to somewhere even hotter than July. You see? Conflict.
And if that happens I’ll dedicate my story to my wrong-headed former friend, with thanks for giving me the missing ingredient, lacking which I’ve been battling the serious malady called “Writer’s Block.”
A Bit of Writer’s Block Can Be a Good Thing
For most of the past year I’ve been suffering from writer’s block. I used to regard writer’s block as an excuse to be lazy. For most of my writing life I’ve had more to write about, more stories waiting to be told, than I had time to write and tell those stories. I’m especially proud of my output over the thirteen years I’ve live in Humboldt County: eleven novels finished or written start-to-finish, all of them now in print or published as ebooks. Writer’s block? No way, I thought. Until about a year ago, when I hit the wall, and stuck there.
It’s not that I had run out of ideas. It’s not that I didn’t get any writing done over the past year, either. In fact, I started five novels and wrote a satisfactory first chapter to each of them. But with each of these book-length projects, the first chapter is as far as I could go. I ran out of plot, over and over, and I had run out of conflict.
Then, about a week ago, I rethought my situation. No more conflict? No more novel. But what would it take to turn what I’ve got into five good short stories? After all, during the 1990s, before I got on a roll with my novels, I wrote short stories with some success.
I took another look at those five first chapters. Two of them I’ll have to give up on. But three of them have all I need for three good short stories, including just the right amount of conflict to keep a story going for a few thousand words. It will take work, but I enjoy work.
Here goes. The re-emergence of a short story writer.
Wish me luck.
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 August’s 99-word story submissions is August 1. The stories will appear on my blog post for August 13, and will stay posted for a 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: Imagine a special place you like to go, a place that has much meaning for you. Write a story about going to that place, and being surprised to find someone there whom you haven’t seen in a long, long time.
Thank you for visiting. Please drop by next week. Meanwhile I leave you with a thought: If you reach that wall made out of writer’s blocks, take a break, have a good night’s sleep, and then see what you have, and how you can use it. Chances are you’ll find a way around or over the wall.