Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On Writing

Not so much a workshop post, as a "why I keep trying."

I had a teacher once, who told me I would make a great storyteller. She was talking about stage presence and my reading voice, hearkening back to days of yore when people would get dressed up and go and see someone read a story (like we used to do when we were little kids at the library).

My ego was too big to imagine making a career out of reading to kids in the library (I personally think younger me was an idiot, and that, that would be a fine occupation); but it was a seed planted in the soft peat of my brain.

I went to my old High School in Georgia once, to wax nostalgic about my youth and visit a few Teachers i wanted to thank for a job well done. One of those teachers, I can't for the life of me remember her name - Mrs. Brown (thanks, Brian), had kept a short story I'd written and read it to her classes as an example of what she was looking for.

I would have swelled to bursting with the pride of it, if I hadn't immediately realized how many people were being subjected to something I'd written. It was about bunnies and a skull, inspired by a piece of carved ivory my step-father had owned. I don't recall anything else about it.

It was scary as shit to me that people knew - or at least had heard a story I'd made up - for whatever reason. Plus, somebody thought it was good. Mrs. Brown, had liked it well enough that she not only gave it a good grade, but she kept it and shared it. Holy shit if that wasn't a little water on the seed.

My senior year in High School, I was writing this sci-fi story inspired by the letters and notes of Bram Stoker. It detailed the correspondence between a Marine discovering the existence of extraterrestrials, and our government's complicity in their subjugation of our world.

My dad told me one day, "I have a confession to make: I saw the letters and thought they were love letters back to Georgia, but I was curious so I read them. I was a little weirded out at first, but you have the makings of a really good story there."

Now, obviously, praise from a parent can be a little suspect but the way he went about it made me take him at his word. A little more water, a little more fertilizer.

Then I discovered (or rediscovered) the wonderment that is game night.
Dungeons and Dragons, Vampire the Masquerade, Star Wars, GURPs - a half-dozen different venues with which to express my desire to tell stories (and the germination of quite a few novels floating around in piles and piles of notes and ideas).

When I left the military I had this vague notion about tending bar and writing the great American novel. Over the years I've toyed and played with the idea - written the first few chapters to a couple dozen different stories, dabbled in fan-fiction (I'm sorry, I'm so sorry), short stories and comic book and film scripts. I've been tending this garden now for a long while with no real fruit.

(You can download a copy of my short story, Chaucer at Amazon; if you can't find it anywhere else free).

It wasn't until a gamer friend of mine challenged me about what I was going to do with my life that I started thinking about writing seriously. He asked me if there wasn't some way I could turn my passion for gaming toward more lucrative ends.

I admit I am still paralyzed by that ever present enemy of the writer of fiction, doubt - but my friend was right. Of all the things I've wanted to do with my life, writing is the one thing that has consistent brought me pleasure and fulfillment. It's the primary lynchpin in gaming that holds me so tightly in its grip.

There's almost nothing I like better, creatively, than telling a story well (drawing often comes in at a close second).

It's kind of the reason I'm here. Let's hope I'm good at it.

Anyway... the thing is... what I really mean is that my reason for writing is because I feel like I have to. I have this need in me, built up over twenty years or so, to tell stories as best I can, anyway I can. It's fun, it's fulfilling, and it helps keep me in the illusion that something I do might last - or at least bring good to people around me.

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