Not literally, but they expect instant action; twists; turns; surprise endings.
Most of the time I can oblige; most of the time it’s what I like too, but every now and then it comes out as something else.
It doesn’t have a lot to do with me it’s just the way it comes out.
Sometimes I forget to write for me and end up writing for someone else.
Not that there is anything wrong with giving your readers what they want, but when it gets in the way, there is a problem.
For the last few weeks, I’ve had a nasty little virus which has turned my body and mind to mush. I’ve been doing my best to read [as in, listen to audio books, because my eyes don’t work too well], but writing has been out of the question.
Hemingway describes what happens to you when you go too many days without writing, and I wish I had written it down when I read it, but if you are a writer you know what he is talking about; it isn’t pleasant.
I have a lot of ideas and heap of characters in my head, and they each demand their time in the sun. It’s good for them, but it does not always serve me well.
I have two novels, both partially written, but the progress is slow because various short stories demand to be written.
If I weren’t enjoying the process, it would be a lot easier.
I could simply lock myself in my writing room and not allow myself out until one, or the other of the novels is completed, but the truth is I love the short form. I love the ‘slice of life’ approach. I love coming in near the end.
I love the feeling of standing at the bar of my local pub and telling a story —- beginning —- middle and end —- all in the time it takes to drink a good whisky.
I love that my main character might be a tough bloke or a suburban housewife.
He might be a she, and either one of them might be a dog or a guardian angel.
They might be an inventor or a murderer or even a damsel in distress.
And yes, they may even be a writer.
While we are on the subject; why do editors of literary magazines hate stories about writers?
A story is a story, so WTF?
Why do they care so much?
Someone wise once said that there are only three stories in the world, and every story stems from those three basic stories.
I had an interesting experience with editors just recently; I submitted one of my favourite stories to a handful of Lit Mags and went back to writing and reading and worrying about stuff; my usual routine.
A bit of time went by and I heard from two different editors about the same story.
In one instance, the story was shortlisted for a prestigious University Lit Mag here in Australia [in didn’t make the final cut, unfortunately], and I was honoured to be on that short list.
I was probably lucky that their theme [they only publish four times a year, and they only publish three stories, so it is a big deal if you are chosen] was ‘Into The Future’ because my story was slightly Sci-Fi.
I don’t write a lot of Sci-Fi, mainly because I’m not very good at it, but this story demanded a Sci-Fi setting.
Now here is the interesting part; when I published this story on WP a while back, you, my lovely readers, commented on the content and the style and singled out certain elements that you particularly liked.
They were the things that I liked about this story as well, so I was very pleased.
Obviously the University Lit Mag editor felt the same way, but when I received a very polite rejection letter from another Lit Mag, they pointed out that they thought it ‘started off well’ but then it fell down in the middle by describing certain places and events and ‘this was time that could have been better spent telling us more about the main characters’.
I laughed when I read this [even though I appreciated the feedback] because these were the very parts that you and I liked about this story.
Can you see my frustration?
Can you see why writers tear their hair out?
I didn’t want you, or them, to know more about the characters; that wasn’t the point of the story.
You and they were supposed to fill in the details for yourself.
Knowing more about the characters would have made the story longer and not necessarily more interesting.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining; I just find it interesting.
I write for me first, but I definitely write for you.
I want you to have as much fun with a story as I’m having.
I want you to wonder about my characters.
I want you to wonder what comes next and what came before.
I want you to feel sorry for them and to be angry and frustrated that they cannot see what you can see; and I want them to make you laugh —- sometimes at them, and sometimes with them.
Above all, I want you to enjoy the ride.
I mean it when I say that I often don’t know where these characters are taking me so I get a buzz as it starts to unfold and I hope that you do too.
Sometimes I sit on trains and I look for a face that interests me; someone I’m drawn to.
I build a life for that person inside my head.
I imagine those that are around them now as well as those who are passed on.
The ones who have passed on are invariably the most interesting; they are ‘the ones who have come before’.
We all have them; they are the ones who loved us or influenced us or were touched by us, but now they are gone. What would they say if they could communicate? I often imagine mothers and grandmothers who are immensely proud of how a young person has turned out. “He’s such a good boy”, said a grandmother who had watched her grandson grow from a boy to a man; she is so proud.
These exercises can sometimes leave me feeling a little sad but on the other hand, it is fun to think of loved ones being reunited.
I’m not sure what effect these sessions have on my stories, because my stories tend to be in the here and now, but I know that I get a great sense of connection when I practise this. “Everyone has a story to tell”, my mother said this a lot and she was right, they do, it’s just that it sometimes takes a second person to bring out that story.
As this essay is entitled ‘Everyone Wants’, and just at this moment, my dogs are looking at me as if to say, “We have waited patiently for you to type your story, and now it is time to walk in the sun.”
Winter does not produce a lot of sunny days so they are right, it would be a shame to waste a sunny day.