“We won’t get any snow. We never do. When it’s cold, we get no precipitation. When there’s precipitation, it isn’t cold.”
I spoke these words on December 7th, 2016. It was the last day of Fall Semester, and I was looking toward a long Christmas break and an even longer Oregon winter. Rain. Cold. Cold. Rain. Never both at once. Just wet pavement and dark sky day after day after day.
It was the very next day when the first snow fell.
It was not the microscopic film that usually covers the ground if there is snow at all. As the snow continued to come down, it piled up, and by evening, there were a good two full inches of snow. If you live in the Willamette Valley, then you know that is a rare occurrence. The snow stuck around for a couple of days, long enough to be able to walk around and enjoy the glittering blanket that covered the city. When the snow melted away, we could rest, glad that we had actually had real snow this winter.
And then a week later, it returned. Once again, it was real snow that fell, and it postponed a dance recital and brought early Christmas Break to those not on a college schedule. This time when it melted, we were happy, because now we could say that we had two separate snow events during the winter.
And then another snow came and went.
And now it is snowy once more.
Four separate snows in one winter.
But it is like the taunt that you never want to use if you are a character in a movie.
Because it is a universal rule that once a character says those words, something terrible is going to happen. The taunt always brings that swarm of orcs or robot drones.
Or in this case, snow. But the snow is far more welcome.
A friend just asked me, “What makes you want to finish your book? I’m sure you have many other story ideas that you want to play with…”
I stared at the question.
On one hand, I can understand the reasoning. If writing is simply a hobby, why keep at it if it is not entertaining you? Why not scrap stories and start new ones whenever the current story starts getting difficult? (As, in fact, I did when I ten years old)
But that is if writing is simply a hobby. If your novel is simply an amusing pastime.
To an author, a novel is far more than a hobby or a trivial amusement. It is your joy and pain. Your labor and love. Your greatest opportunity for glory or humiliation. In short, it is your child.
And so the question, “Why keep at it?” sounds not only absurd, it sounds outlandish. Do you care for your child only when the act brings warm fuzzy feelings? Do you love your child only when it brings you immediate personal gratification? Do you go and throw your child into the street when it starts getting on your nerves or simply fails to entertain you? I should hope not. What makes a parent is the constant act of loving and nurturing and molding the incredible creation known as a child. What makes an author is the constant act of loving and nurturing and molding the incredible creation known as a story. Yes, the story will give you headaches and will defy you and will keep you awake at night. But this story is yours. You don’t simply toss it away just because it is digging in its heels and saying “No!”
Of course I have other story ideas I want to try. And sometimes I do write a song or a poem or a short story. Sometimes I even start a poem and shrug it off. Why? It is not my child. I write a poem much as I pick up another person’s child. It coos and grins and brings me immediate reward. But it is a short pleasure. I may never once have to change that child’s exploding diaper. But by that very same token, I can also never love it in the same way that I would love my own child. A poem can be fun to write. But if it only cost me an hour or two of effort, I can never hold it with the same parental pride that I can hold a book that is still not polished and perfected, but has been the work of six years.
One of these days it will step out into the wide world. But now is not that time, and in the meantime, I will do my best to give it the attention and direction that it needs.
To one immersed in the world of fantasy, it is easy to imagine a journey as a glorious adventure that the average person will never be able to experience. We can picture riding through the stunning New Zealand scenery in fine costume, with perfect hair flying in the breeze. We can see ourselves facing untold danger or breathless wonder, both of which we equally romanticize. But we forget that even in the worlds we try to dream ourselves into, most of the journey’s process is nothing exciting or in any way enviable. The journey itself is simply the necessary slogging down a long and exhausting road.
What makes a journey marvelous is looking back at how it took you–slowly–from Point A to Point B.
Even with this type of scenery to look at for much of his quest, I’m pretty sure that Frodo was not having the time of his life during the hours and days and weeks and months hiking to Mount Doom…
This remains true no matter what type of journey you face. It might be a literal, physical journey, it might be a journey of great personal pain, or it might simply be the sometimes frustrating journey of taking on a new project or skill. No matter the type, a journey leaves you with new experiences and, if conquered, new strengths.
Even as I write, I sit back in quiet exultation at the long-awaited completion of a small project that has consumed nearly every free moment of my last two weeks. As some of you may know, two weeks ago now, I released my third published short story, a Gap in the Road companion by the name of Ashes. The same day the book released, I decided it was at last time to move my website from the simple-but-limiting platform I had used until then, and move instead to WordPress.org, a much more versatile platform with which I could create absolutely anything I could imagine. I had done a fair amount of research and determined that WordPress was the best platform to switch to, and so on a whim I began the necessary procedures: exporting content from the old site, finding hosting, signing up with WordPress, requesting a temporary domain, etc, in order to begin creating the new website. At first, like any new journey, I felt excitement that I was creating something new–that when this was finished, it would be a far better product than before.
And then something happened. My inexperience in web designing caught up with me. Whereas with the old platform, creating a website was a simple matter of uploading images and writing in text boxes, now suddenly I found myself facing a platform with which a certain amount of coding knowledge was necessary. Some of this coding could be avoided by the extensive use of plugins, but even so, there was no way to know ahead of time which plugin would be great addition to the site, and which would be an utter dud. And while a plugin might help me insert a contact form or a slideshow, it did little to help change background color or fix word wrap. So try as I might to avoid it, I inevitably found myself, again and again, staring at the long pages of html, trying to decipher the strange symbols before me.
And so, long story short, what I assumed would be a quick, exciting transition to a better website turned out to be a long and agonizing process, with me spending sometimes hours at a time trying to fix one single issue. Now at the journey’s end, however, I can finally sit back and enjoy the fact that the process is over, and that I now have a much improved, fully-functional website. And while I could not pretend that these have been a fun two weeks spent tied to a computer and a stubborn website, I can say now that I learned a great deal through the process.
Does this small adventure sound like a very exciting or life-changing journey? No, it does not. Yet it comprises one of many tiny journeys that altogether make up the greater journey that we call life. And regardless of how unexciting or anticlimactic these little journeys in our lives may seem, no journey that produces growth is anything we need scoff at. You may, even now, face a momentous journey in your life. Or you might instead face a small journey that you think insignificant. We do not all simply walk into Mordor, but we do all make journeys in our lives that change us, little by little, great or small.
I wrote several months ago about being surprised that I was actually starting to learn to appreciate poetry, and even find enjoyment and relaxation in the writing of nonsense poetry. While at that point the extent of my poetry writing was throwing random words onto a page to try to free up my creativity, the beast has since grown, and poetry-writing has become a regular part of my life.
Sadly, I do not actually write with a fountain pen. I would, though, if I had one.
A great deal of the blame lies on my sweet and lively college professor, Colette Tennant, who is a poet and thus takes every opportunity to expose her students to poetry. This is poetry of all genres, from the cute, to the disturbing, to the plain, to the more difficult to chew… and through that I started to learn that poetry is considerably more than sappy lines that rhyme and follow a meter. (Of course I should have known that, since I listen to music, and that is a form of poetry itself, but never mind).
And so slowly, I started to learn that there was a lot more to poetry than I had previously believed. Still I did not write it much, for it came awkwardly, and with very little experience save for parody-writing, I still tried to hold to what I believed the rules to be. But I began intermittently attending Tennant’s poetry club on my college campus, for it is a fun, laid-back opportunity to take prompts and write what comes to mind, and through that, I began slowly to be converted to the art of poetry-writing.
The change in my mind occurred when I realized at last that poetry is not nearly as different from prose as I originally thought. And far from being some unnatural, contorted variation of prose, it is rather a freer, less rule-demanding form. While the essayist or novelist is expected to adhere to a certain grammatical structure, the poet can write however they think will best put forth their intended message, story, or idea. When I stopped trying to force my poetry to fit inside certain formulaic limitations, my eyes became opened to the wide opportunity that poetry offers. Poetry, I came to realize, is far more about Psychology than it is about a particular literary form.
What do I mean by that? I mean this: in essay-writing, for example, you typically seek to summarize, inform, compare, reflect, or persuade. There is room for exploration, yes, but an essay is typically supposed to have a certain amount of scholarship backing it, which means that your mind is not generally left with much free reign to imagine or play with ideas. In a fictional story you have much more opportunity for exploration and creation, especially as you create complex, nonexistent characters/creatures/cultures/etc. Yet even in story-writing there tends to be a certain amount of limitation. You might explore life from a character of a vastly different background from yourself, but you do not usually, for example, explore life from the perspective of an inanimate object. And if you do, there is usually a reason for it that is relevant to your story.
The ocean as pictured in a poem I wrote personifying the vast and terrible beauty known as ocean.
What poetry does that other types of writing do not, is that it allows you to explore and conceptualize absolutely anything you can imagine, without it needing to tie to any preexisting story or idea. When in a contemplative frame of mind, you can write a poem from the perspective of the mighty ocean or the lowly safety pin. When going through emotional highs and lows, you can work through the emotions either by the direct pouring of your thoughts on paper, or the less-direct but more artful exploring of small elements or imagined symbolism/correlations of your particular situation. Where it is not in the nature of an essay to be something that you write for your own benefit, a poem is much the opposite. Even when in life’s recent events I have had less time/opportunity for other pursuits, poetry is something that far from neglecting, I have embraced more and more as I realize its incredible value. Referring again to my mention of Psychology: on a bad day, writing poetry can help me mentally and psychologically, and on a good day, it can help me explore the psychology–real or imagined–of everything around me. I used to think that poetry was a completely different domain from the story writing that I am used to. But I have since learned that what poetry offers only complements a story writer’s work. Sometimes you wish to explore a topic but are in the middle of a story already. Write a poem. It is a far less stressful way to conceptualize–once you realize that poetry does not have to be hard.
Few stories seem as familiar as the story of Sleeping Beauty. We all know the story of the princess who is cursed from birth, protected in vain by her parents, cast into a deep sleep in her late adolescence, and at last awoken by a handsome prince. Through the countless adaptations created over time, the same essential story remains easily recognizable, even if the details vary.
Thus it was surprising to find an old version of the tale that included an entire extra plot conspicuously absent from the common retellings.
Trying to find a bizarre fairy tale for a school project, I sat flipping through fairy tale books, skimming through the more familiar tales and instead reading those with which I was unfamiliar. As can be expected, I found a share of strange fairy tales, and with such a wealth of peculiarity at my fingertips, I would have laughed had you told me that the fairy tale I would chose would be the familiar Sleeping Beauty.
But skimming through the book, I briefly flipped through one of the many Sleeping Beauty stories until I froze, seeing a portion of the story I had never once seen in a Sleeping Beauty rendition. Curiosity aroused, I flipped back to the beginning of the story and began to read.
Sleeping Beauty by Gustave Dore
At first, the story seemed to follow the typical Sleeping Beauty formula, save with some extra detail that made the story better come alive. Yet where the story typically ends, this version, called The Sleeping Beauty in the Woods, had only reached its midpoint. Instead of the prince and princess returning to the prince’s castle and living happily ever after, the newly-wedded couple move secretly to a cottage in the woods. There Sleeping Beauty lives, while the prince returns home to his parents’ castle, escaping whenever possible to be with his soon-growing family. His mother over time comes to suspect something, but in trying to keep his family safe, he does not say a word.
After two years his father dies, however, and being now the king, the former prince decides it should be safe for his family to move to the castle. He by now has two young children, and for a time all runs smoothly. Yet at length he is called off to war, and he foolishly entrusts the safety of his wife and children to his ogre-blooded mother. The moment he is gone, the Queen Mother commands the butler to prepare Sleeping Beauty’s daughter, Dawn, as dinner. Unable to harm the child, the butler cooks up a lamb instead, covering it in sauce to disguise the flavor. The Queen Mother ravenously eats what she believes to be her granddaughter, and soon later commands the same to be done to her grandson, Day. Again, the butler fools her. At last she asks for Sleeping Beauty herself, and is, once more, deceived by the butler.
The story describes the Queen Mother as “reveling in her cruelty,” when she passes by the butler’s house one day and hears her grandson’s voice coming from inside the house. Enraged, the queen orders everyone in the house to be bound and thrown into a vat filled with poisonous creatures. Just before her order can be carried completely out, the king returns unexpectedly home. Furious that her plans have been foiled, the Queen Mother throws herself into the vat, and is instantly devoured. The king briefly grieves for her mother, but his wife and children restore his spirits, and they live happily after.
Finishing the unusual rendition, I am understandably confused. I am even more so when I read the moral, which tells girls to wait patiently for the right husband, even as Sleeping Beauty had to during her hundred-year sleep. This puts me off. This version of the story has an entire extra plot line absent from most Sleeping Beauty tales, and yet its moral has nothing to do with the extra plot line.
But ah, this is why context matters.
I do a bit of research on the story, and learn that this tale, written by Charles Perrault, actually precedes the tale by Brothers Grimm by more than a century. Out of curiosity, I decide to read the Brother Grimm version, expecting something dark and disturbing, as the Grimm Tales are usually made out to be. Yet it was not. It was little different from the generic Sleeping Beauty story you will find in a children’s fairy tale treasury. Aside from a passing statement about unlucky princes going to their deaths, there was no blood, no gore, and certainly no cannibalistic grandmothers.
The question then arose: why did Brothers Grimm sanitize the story to the point of removing the entire second half of the story? Clearly, this begs more research.
As usually happens, what seemed so bizarre out of context makes a great deal of sense when in context.
Just as the Grimm tale was altered from Perrault’s version, so also Perrault’s version was altered from an even older version, written by a Giambattista Basile. Curiosity driving me, I found and read a copy of this older version, known as Sun, Moon, and Talia. Quickly I realized that Perrault’s version was not so strange at all. Rather, it was the heavily sanitized, child-friendly version of a far more amoral tale.
The beginning started off enough like a Sleeping Beauty story, except without the usual curse from a vengeful fairy. Instead of a curse, a prophecy was made that if young Talia ever pricked herself with a splinter of flax, she would come to great harm. Predictably, her parents remove all spinning material from their home, and she is kept safe until years later, when she sees an old woman spinning flax and asks to give the task a try. She picks up the spindle, but as she begins to spin, a splinter catches under her fingernail, and she falls, as if dead. Grieved, her father lays her on a bed, closes the house, and departs forever.
Here is where the more questionable content begins.
“The Kiss” by Henry H. Rheam
A married king happens by the house one day, and, venturing inside, sees the girl. Passion aroused, he takes advantage of her as she sleeps, and then he returns to his kingdom. Nine months later she gives birth to twins, named Sun and Moon, and trying to nurse, one of the babies sucks the splinter of flax out of her finger, and she wakens at last. Soon later the king returns to visit again, this time finding her awake. He tells her what he did, and far from being bothered in any way, Talia finds herself taken with him. He returns home in the morning, but all the while he cannot keep his mind off of Talia and the children. His wife comes to suspect something, and she orders a servant to investigate.
At lengths, learning the truth, the queen sends a message to Talia summoning the two children, saying that their father wants to see them. Gladly, Talia complies. When the children arrive, the queen orders the head cook to prepare them up and serve them to their father for dinner. Unable to do so, the cook hides them and prepares two lambs in their place. The queen watches in relish as her husband eats his meal, all the while giving snide comments that he “is eating his own.”
Soon later, when the king is away, the queen summons Talia, then orders her bound and burned alive. The king returns just before the deed is done, and furious, he demands an explanation. The queen gladly explains her plan for revenge, and the king, learning from the cook that his children still live, orders his wife thrown into the fire instead. Once she is dead, he and Talia get married and live happily ever after.
In the context of this story, everything that seemed strange and obscure in the Perrault version suddenly makes a great deal more sense. Far from being a twisted version of Sleeping Beauty, the Perrault version is an overly clean version of Sun, Moon and Talia. Fantastical elements are given more of a place, the characters are made chaste, and the jealous wife is replaced with an ogre. Furthermore, the moral serves not as a commentary on his own story, but rather as a direct refutation of the moral that follow’s Basile’s story. Basile’s moral goes as follows, “Those whom fortune favors find good luck even in their sleep.”
By contrast, Perrault’s advocates the concept of patience and propriety.
All this begs the question in my mind. Did the Brothers Grimm cut the story in half to further separate it from the more disgusting earlier versions? For while there is clear parallel between the Grimm version and the Perrault version, and there is clear parallel between the Perrault version and the Basile version, there is surprisingly little parallel between the Grimm version and the Basile version. From the stories I have always heard, the idea of the Brothers Grimm being in the business of sanitizing fairy tales seems strange.
Yet with Sleeping Beauty, that certainly is the case.
Our country has erupted at the news of Friday’s slaughter in Paris. Go onto social media and you will see an increasing number of friends and family incorporating the French flag into their profile pictures to show support for the people of France during this devastating time. Initially, I find myself desiring also to express my condolences and prayers in this matter.
But then I realize the subjectivity of this support that we are showing France.
Why do we flock to show our support for the people of Paris while completely ignoring the many others around the world that are equally devastated?
Why does this event rile up our nation, when we don’t notice or care about the countless equally disgusting events happening in our world on a regular basis? Have we changed our profile pictures for the Lebanese victims in the Beirut bombings? For the college students massacred in Kenya? For the men, women, and children daily beheaded by Isis? What happened in France was horrible and inexcusable, and yes, we should support the hurting French. But why do we care so much about that single event in Paris and then completely ignore the many similar events happening elsewhere on the globe? We live in a world that is hurting and needs our aid and our support. This Paris attack is not some isolated event.
And that is why I cannot join the crowd in changing my profile picture to sympathize with France for a couple days. That is not to say that I won’t support them or that I won’t pray for them. But as they need prayer and support, so also do the many others hurting around the world.
We live in a hurting world that needs far more than just momentary bandwagons of support.
It is a strange moment when something that you care little for proves to be a soothing and stimulating activity.
Although some people seem to assume that since I am a writer, I must like writing poetry, I never have. In fact, I’ve never been much of a poetry-reader either. It has nothing to do with disliking the style of rhyme or meter–in fact, the poems that I actually could appreciate tended to be ones that rhyme well and read coherently. I think my problem with poetry was two-fold, first, that it is a “weird” art form in comparison to prose–or “normal” writing, and second, that it tends to be too sentimental for me. (Which perhaps is why I could read and enjoy, say, Poe.)
This picture could summarize my former view of poetry… sweet and sentimental, and entirely too frilly and pink. Notice also that this picture depicts a cup of tea, whereas novel writing is always portrayed with a cup of coffee. No, I am not at all biased over my choice of tea or coffee.
And people have told me before, “Well, you write songs. That is poetry.” And I would say, “Yes, but that doesn’t really count.” Besides, most of these “songs” are parodies… so they are meant to be humorous, not touching.
As I have actually been studying poetry more this year in my college classes, I have actually found myself starting to appreciate some of these pieces–weird though it seems. I still find myself cringing at Emily Dickinson’s rhyming attempts, but I can otherwise start to recognize some of the art present in the poems. It is a world very different from that of the novel or essay writing that I am used to. It is a completely separate type of art form.
But even weirder than being able to start enjoying some poetry reading is the concept of enjoying writing it. And not just writing poetry, but even weirder, writing blatantly nonsense poetry. In effect, purposefully writing the stuff that always made me turn my nose up at the whole genre.
But as I happened to stumble upon a blog post called This Fun Creative Writing Exercise Will Change Your Life, I followed the link out of curiosity. Writing exercises can be useful even if they won’t ‘change your life.’ But I may say I was surprised when I saw what the writing exercise was. An exercise to stimulate creativity and combat Perfectionism, the exercise was to write a nonsense poem writing down a series of random words, one right after another–whatever popped into your head.
Shrugging, I gave it a try. “What’s the first word that pops into my mind? Frog? Ok.” And at first came out nonsense, and then pretty soon, fairly coherent, rhythmic lines were coming forth, and it was an actually enjoyable, freeing sensation. That is certainly never something I have experienced the few times I have tried to write poetry… But as the blogger said, by letting go and allowing whatever comes to mind–be it utter nonsense–to flow onto the page, “you free up your creativity…”
And so it seems to be.
If after all a new day dawns
if lamp posts blaze on ivory
if pollen sleeps to be set free
a new awakening I see
What does that mean? I have no idea. But I liked the sound of it. (and note, this was the best of the group. It certainly wasn’t the first.) And as someone who writes typically in a very formal style, and who tends to over-correct their work, this letting go and letting whatever popped into mind onto the page was extremely unusual and extremely freeing.
Try it yourself. If a non-poetry person like me can find relaxation in writing random poetry, you might be able to as well. It will start out rough, but who knows, it may bring out the spontaneity in you, too.
It is interesting when reading writer blogs/writer advice, seeing times when the writing tips from various sources are not only different, but in complete opposition from each other. The subject of Archetypes is one of the fields I see this in the most.
Scrolling down either of my Pinterest pages, I will see, now and again, “Archetypes for Fantasy Stories” or “Archetypes in Famous Books” or “Archetypes Every Story Needs,” and each will give a list such as Warrior, Prankster, Mentor, Healer, etc. I will stare at these briefly, puzzling over why a field that stresses multi-faceted characters and originality is so regularly putting out resources like this to make it extremely easy to make characters… or should I say caricatures.
Gandalf, Ben Kenobi, and Dumbledore were all important members of their respective stories. In our own stories, however, we are tempted to create cheap reconstructions of characters we liked from other works, rather than developing complex characters of our own.
How many versions, for instance, have we seen of the “old, bearded mentor who inconveniently dies (or seems to) partway through?” That is not to say that there is anything wrong with a character who fits those parameters. Something becomes an archetype because it worked–however, is our character a sloppy recreation of a “tried-and-true-type,” or is he or she a unique character of their own?
An archetype might be a good place to start when first piecing together the ideas for your story. But therein lies the key word: to start. The problem with archetypes isn’t that they serve no purpose, it is that they allow you to pick character types without actually having to create characters. I had this problem for a very long time in my writing. My main villain in Gap in the Road, for instance, used to be your typical, flat, “Hehehe I’m evil. I am going to take over the world!” type villain. Why was he bad? Well he’s a bad guy of course, what else would he be?
As a result, the character was flat.
But later on I actually started delving into my character. I started asking myself the important questions that a writer should be able to answer for any one of their characters. Who are/were this character’s parents? What was this character’s childhood like? What is this character’s biggest fear? What events led them to the place they are in now? What is this character’s secret dream? The list continues. Even questions that seem irrelevant to the story are still good to know for your own reference. That doesn’t mean you should add truckloads of backstory into the book. But once you as the writer understand your character, he or she will naturally bear a greater amount of depth than they would have otherwise–all from you as the writer understanding their past, their strengths, their weaknesses, their goals, and the like.
And as to Garshokk, my main villain in Gap in the Road, has his character fundamentally changed since I started exploring his character? Not really. He still is a “bad guy” and he still wants to take over the world… But now I know why. Now I know his history and his weaknesses. Now as write, I understand him as a complex human being, not simply an archetypal, stereotypical villain.
You walk casually into the room. The moment you do, you hear, “IMBECILE!” Pausing, you turn in my direction. Where a moment ago I had been sitting calmly at my laptop, now my face is toward the ceiling, fist raised and teeth clenched in obvious fury.
This giraffe looks confused. Would you?
If you are my Accomplice, your face will simply take on a look of amusement as you continue on your way. I will see your retreating figure as I turn back to the computer screen, and my expression will turn into embarrassment as I realize that you walked in on my interesting method of trying to figure out the words I’m looking for with my current scene. The incident will most certainly cause me to start laughing, and as embarrassed as I may be, I know full well that it isn’t the first, nor will it be the last event of its kind. Because the fact is, I am a writer, and so sometimes my quest to put stories to paper will require odd measures.
And in my defense, how am I to write about someone confronted by an enemy if I don’t at least stop to imagine what it would be like? Sometimes merely sitting calmly and imagining the event isn’t enough, because sometimes the right words don’t come to me. Sometimes I must actually put myself in my character’s shoes as much as reasonably possible. (I say as much as reasonably possible because when their situation is capture or the near-tumbling off of a cliff, I can’t simply arrange for an educational experience of their plight.) Instead I must satisfy myself with hanging partially off of my sister’s bed while I cling desperately to the railing… and hope that no one walks into the room right at this moment.
But if they do, it can at least make a good story.
Every story comes from somewhere, often some innocent, highly undeserving statement, image, or even food, with which something in your mind clicks, and from this springs an idea or a story. A writer cannot conjure up an idea on command, and yet at times, for seemingly no reason, an idea comes at night, or in the shower, or at the sight of a tomato plant. In my own case, ideas have come from so many odd places, it is impossible to keep track of them all.
But one I shall never forget was the inspiration for what was probably one of the first stories I ever wrote.
Meet Grumpy Goronna. She arrived at our house many years back when one of my friends accidentally picked her up in one of the “grab the toy” boxes at the grocery store, and had no desire to keep this ugly doll. When my friend’s mom came by to ask if I wanted the toy for myself, my initial inner response was unsurprising. “Uhhh…. why would I want that?” Yet for some reason we kept it, and quickly I decided that rather than just an ugly toy, this doll was nothing less than the main villain in a story.
For many months then, my five-year-old self drew pictures in notebooks, creating a whole hierarchy of good and evil superheroes, the good ones all girls with wings, and the bad ones all ugly, spiky-haired beings with names such as Grumpy Goronna, Evil Eddie, and Herelda Haggie. And as a five-year-old, it only made sense that Yoda and the Care Bears were also in the story… but that’s beside the point. I unfortunately do not still have these notebooks, but they were among my first “large” works, despite the evident lack of words one would find if these could be rediscovered. However lacking I was in writerly vocabulary and sophistication, my imagination was quite alive and kicking.
I’m sure neither myself, my parents, or my friend’s parents had any idea at the time how pivotal that ugly doll would prove in my story-making career. Goronna might not play any sort of a role in Gap in the Road or any of my other more recent stories, yet she remains a part of my writing history all the same, and I have never allowed her to be weeded out with other toys.
I will continue further on this topic in the not-too-distant future, focusing on more recent cases of odd inspirations for ideas. If you’re a fellow writer, what strange things have given you ideas?