Starting Stories

I have a confession to make: I couldn’t think of something good to write for today. It’s a shame, I know. I mean, I normally plan these posts a few days if not weeks ahead. But I guess this week things just sort of fell through.

So, instead of interrupting what I hope you’ve been starting to expect as my schedule, I though I’d give you a sneak peek into a few of the stories I’ve been writing their premises and a few paragraphs. I’m in the process now of editing these pieces for what I hope will be publication by a paying website or, preferably, magazine, but some may make their way here, if I decide that either (a) I wish to retain full control, or (b) I’m not convinced they’re pieces I could sell.

This story was my first attempt at a fable and a children’s tale. Unfortunately, I failed at both, but it’s OK, because I ended up creating a great framework or a couple of stories, one for kids and one for adults. The inspiration came from a couple of places. First, from The Tale of the Student and His Son, found in The Claw of the Conciliator (Part of the Book of the New Sun). The writing style for that particular tale was of such beauty that I wouldn’t help attempting to emulate it. Sadly, I still have a long way to go in that reagrd. The second major inspirational source came via an email I received from someone I once thought wise, but who has aparently taken a seat upon a high horse and made herself a fool.

The story is about a child who finds a village of glass people. Through his experiences with them he learns a few lessons, including forgiveness, understanding, and that time heals all wounds. (This, by the way, is why it was so hard to turn this to a fable. The story got very multifaceted. Mind you, I always consider this to be a good thing, since it should force the reader to think.) the goal of the story was not just to impart lessons, but to also cause discussion among its readers. Preferably, the piece will be enjoyed by a few people reading it together and discussing it.

Here’s the introductory paragraph as it now stands:

Once, a child, walking alongside the bank of a river, discovered a small village of tiny glass people. Though no bigger than his hand, these people had a beauty that was both vibrant and statuesque, an unmatched, fabulous quality with which the child was immediately enamored. They were flawless. So there he sat, at the edge of the village on the riverbank, and for the rest of the day admired them. And as the sun hid its face behind the sylvan horizon, the sunlight, which glistened off their flowing curves during the day gave way to radiance from within. Soon, each made its way into its abode and the village went dark, and afterward the child began to walk home.

Come to think of it, that alone can make a story, a crappy little tale with no real conflict or resolution (though leaving you with the cliff hanger of why I used “began to walk home” instead of “walked home”), capturing various moments in time. Anyway, if anyone reading this is from the Davie Meetup Writer’s Group, then this is new to you as well: what I turned last week was nowhere near as developed as this.

Time Immemorial
I started writing Time Immemorial after presenting the concept to a number of comic book artists. Originally, it was meant to be a series of related short, episodic stories chronicling the history of a human society which gave up its technology and returned to nature during a time when multiple human species walked the planet. eventually this set of short stories could be compiled to a book or series of books, a bit like Stephen King’s The Green Mile. These guys, the artists, liked what they heard, and I decided to try my hand at making it a comic (or, if we decide not to sell this episode by episode, a graphic novel). That process is coming along… slowly, to say the least. The script for the first issue is already done, and I’m in the process of working on both issues 0 and 2 at this time. (Why issue 0, you ask? Because it’s an introduction to the world, but not absolutely necessary to understanding the story.)

The inspiration for this story came from a number of anarcho-primitivist writings, including those of Ted Kaczynski (specifically The Unabomber’s Manifesto: Industrial Society and its Future) and John Zerzan. I would classify it as soft sci-fi because its focus tends to be mostly political and anthropological rather than classically sci-fi (at least, not at this point within the history).

Here’s a sample:

Except for a remaining few, the town was empty. A caravan from City—the only major population center remaining, its real name long forgotten—made up mostly of rare, engine-powered trucks, approached from the west during the early morning hours, making their way towards the small town. Each truck was filled with equipment necessary for the restoration. On their way back to City, it would be filled instead with the caravan members, the remaining townsfolk, and whatever fuel could be salvaged.

Asu looked at the nearing town, its black silhouette against the pink morning sky, carried on clouds of low-lying fog. It won’t be long before this becomes a sight unique to City itself, he thought. Man-made structures towering over the plains and trees around them; symmetric buildings and roads on top of land where there should instead be scattered grassland, rocks and trees. Beautiful, stale horror of our own design. Of the buildings he could see, only the silo actually stood more than a few stories, accented by the acres of flatland around the structure, overgrown land long ago used for keeping domesticated beasts. The rest of the buildings were much smaller, like the buildings on the outskirts of City itself. I’ll miss it when–

His train of thought was broken by the sight of a group walking towards them from the town.

Obviously, if you’re looking at the novel or short story side of things, then you can see a few corrections are needed, but I just needed something to help me put a script together, since I find it easier to create this type of story before the script is actually written.

What started out as a bad nightmare during the most stressful time of my life became my first true horror story. When I say it started out as a bad nightmare, I mean it: the story is divided into four parts, and the third comes directly from a dream. (I tend to have very, very vivid dreams.) I decided to turn it into a full fledged story when two days later the images still echoed through my mind as clearly as they had the morning after it happened.

(And for those of you who noticed, yes, I did publish the story on this site for a very brief window of just over 12 hours. If you caught it then congratulations: you got a treat, I hope. If you didn’t then… maybe later. (Or if you ask me really nicely I’ll send it to you on the condition that you critique it.)

Here’s a small sample:

Dr Plana, let out a breath. Something about it made John uncomfortable. “What’s wrong, doc?”

“Can you tell me a bit more about your sister?”

“Sure, what do you want to know?”

“Tell me about the last time you saw her.”

“Well, I saw her just the other day,” John answered. He sounded nervous, although he didn’t know why he should. This was just a simple question. “She cam over to my house and—“

“What was she wearing?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Jeans and a shirt, I guess.” A sinking feeling began overtaking John’s stomach.

“When did she stop wearing the purple robes?”

“Oh, I don’t know, she…” John trailed off. He couldn’t remember her ever really using purple robes, though now that he thought about her as a kid, it seemed she wore those all the time. “You know, doc, it’s kind of strange. I remember her wearing those robes, but something just doesn’t feel right about it.”

“Could you ever see her face when she was wearing the robes, or just her eyes and mouth?”

John thought about it for a minute. How would the doc have known he only ever saw her eyes and mouth? “What are you getting at?”

Sorry to leave you with that cliffhanger, but out of all the short stories I’ve written, this is one I can actually see myself selling to a magazine. (One of my goals for this year is to have my first fiction sale.) After I do I’ll make sure to tell you which magazine and issue. I fail to sell it, then I’ll publish it here for good.

Yellow Waking
My first attempt at speculative sci-fi (wait, isn’t all sci-fi speculative?), Yellow Waking is one of the strangest pieces I’ve ever written. In fact, I look at it now and think “Dear God, did I really write this? It needs work. Badly.” Oh, what a difference a year makes.

There was no particular inspiration for this story, just a couple of thought fragments from different places (mostly the BetterHumans forums) that made their way down my arm and out my fingers one night. I passed this on to a few people and the reaction was either love or hate: there was no inbetween with this one, which, I suppose, is a good thing. (As a side note, I’d like to apologize to those of you who were forced to read the first few drafts. I promise I’ll nerver put you through that again.) Still, it needs to be re-written, and will likely end up as being more hard sci-fi than anything else I’ve put together.

Here’s a sample:

As if to answer the thought, a beam of light, which reflected from the mirror, caught the edge of a silver candle holder atop a wooden night stand and refracted. A shard of light grazed Amanda’s periphery.

She again closed her eyes then let out an empty yawn. The action served no function but to reenact some antehistorical necessity for which she might have once known the purpose. And even that feeling of knowing came only in the fleeting, faraway manner of forgotten dreams.

The Echo of God
Driving through the Everglades at night can be a freaky experience, especially if you’re not used to being in total darkness in the middle of a swamp. That’s where the inspiration for this story came from. That, and Gene Wolfe’s short story book Endangered Species. For various reasons I likely won’t try to get this one published, but it needs a major re-write if I’m to ever make it public, even here.

This is a sci-fi ghost story, a combination I’m not generally crazy about but which works well if done right. (Sadly, I don’t think I did this right.) Still, it offered me the chance to play around with the obvious creepynes of my surroundings and to create a fantastic story in the already strange lands in the southern part of the Freak Show State.

Sample time!

Jeff and I went out to the Everglades that night to see the ghosts. I know, we weren’t supposed to call them anymore, but we had been ghost hunting for a couple of years already and that was the word we used. Nobody cared until people started using technology preserve their personhood after they crossed over. Afterwards, when it became popular to cross because people were convinced that what awaited them there was better than what they had here, they became “crossovers” or “bouncers,” and calling the ghosts was somehow wrong. (Jeff always joked that we should call them the “corporeally challenged” and get it over with. Me, I always liked “bouncers.”)

“Wait, you’re not planning to kill me, are you?” I surprised myself when I realized I said that only half jokingly.

“Nah,” he said. “If I’d’a wanted you dead I wouldn’t want any witnesses.” He nodded towards Jack. “Besides, you’d probably just come back and haunt me.”

After a few seconds, he started again. “Think about it: people believe in heaven, right? If it was really that good on the other side, why would they try to bounce back?” He stood looking out at the bouncers as he asked this.

While this isn’t everything I’ve been working on for the past few months, it probably highlights some of my breakthrough efforts, those stories which have made me a better writer because I took the time to not inly write them, but to improve them. They’re also stories I tortured the members of my writing group with. I hope you enjoyed this, and if you’re willing to critique some, drop me a line and maybe I’ll send you one to check out. (Warning: I’m not responsible for any eye gouging which may ensue due to reading any of these. I will, however, take credit for any enjoyment you may derrive from these.)

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