Monday, July 13, 2015

The Origins of a Story

My current work in progress features Nicky, a supercross racer, and Gray, the short order cook he meets one night at a diner while trying to escape dealing with the painful breakup of a long-term relationship. It took roughly two years to get to the point I am at now, of filling in any missing scenes and dialogues before giving it one last read through before searching for Betas. Along the way, it was shelved several times, but never forgotten about. It just seemed as if this story was one that required me to be able to remove myself from everything in order to be able to write it.

Fitting, I suppose, considering the way this story was born.

You see, I love to travel, and I have a very long list of places I want to see. On that list, at one point, was the Rocky Mountains, and I was lucky enough to be able to travel there a few years back and spend a week hiking in the state park and taking pictures of Elk, Mule Deer, and so much more. On my last morning there, before waiting for the shuttle to take me back down from the mountains, I sat in the laundry room of the campground, doodling while washing my clothes and sleeping bag.

The scene that popped into my head shocked me because of the sadness it conveyed. Here I was, after one of the most wonderful solo weeks of my life, and this sad, miserable character pops into my mind. He was sitting in a dark room listening to country music and mourning the loss of not just his relationship, but a friendship that had gone back to childhood.

To say that it was depressing is an understatement, in fact, the last place I wanted him in my final moments at such a beautiful place, was in my head. I tried pushing him away. I read all of the flyers on the wall of the laundry room, went outside and had a smoke, stared at the mountain, cussed that I had to leave, and through it all, Nicky kept on talking. He wanted his story told. He wanted me to write him out of his misery.

Still. I tried to say no.

How many writers out there have had their characters give them kicked puppy looks? The kind where you can actually picture them in your mind, in some cute puppy form, with droopy ears and watery eyes and that downturned mouth that leaves you imagining you can actually hear them whimper? Nicky, in my head, looked like a Chow Chow, the little shit, how did he know that was one of my favorite dogs?

So there I was, trying to ignore his pleas, and feeling worse and worse for denying him. With a huff and a few halfhearted kicks at some rocks that likely made me look like a petulant child to the six or seven crows that were watching, I stomped back into the laundry room, took up pen and paper, and began to write.

And write

And write

Nicky’s story spilled onto the page during the ride down to Denver. He kept me entertained for the sixteen hours I ended up waiting at the bus station for the bus and all through the trip back to Iowa, including the five hour stop in Kansas City. Even when I nodded off, I would jerk awake with him in my ear, get a better grip on my pen and start writing again.

When I arrived home, I was eager to type up what I had written and was blown away to discover than there were more than 18,000 words there. The problem, I soon found, was that now that I was home, Nicky had disappeared.

I tried my usual, the woods, the pond, sitting in the silence trying to hear him, but nothing. Then I was afforded the opportunity to go to a three day Rock on the River show. Determined, I took my writing with me, and there, at the campgrounds, Nicky once again began to talk. And not just him, but Gray chimed in too. He wanted to be more than a one night stand. Then Vic started to get more vocal, and Terry decided to tell his side and the next thing I knew, I was spending as much time at the festival writing as I was standing by the stage.

Buck Cherry was playing "Crazy Bitch" and I was sitting at a table near the food trucks, beneath one of the few available lights, scribbling furiously as they all spoke. Those three days kicked in another 12,000 plus words and some scattered scenes, and yet, upon returning home, they were silent again. Fortunately, by then, I had caught on.

Over the next few years, I would carry their notebook with me whenever I took overnight trips. Slowly, the rest of the story, and a new character, River, began to appear. The inclusion of River was fun, it took the story into some completely unplanned directions. Writing River was like getting presents on Christmas morning, every new scene he was involved with turned out to be a treasure waiting to be unwrapped.

Now, as I sit to work on the final fill ins, I can look back on the origins this tale and be grateful that I took the time to listen to Nicky and write it. Over the course of the next few months I will be giving occasional sneak peaks of Nicky’s story. I hope you will all come to love him as much as I do. I will be looking for some Beta readers soon, usually I go to the Beta group on Goodreads, but if there are any interested parties reading this, please feel free to drop me a line.

And now I leave you with a tiny tidbit.

“Hey,” Nicky piped up, “That’s my t-shirt.”

Terry scowled and threw it at him.

“Those are my jeans too.”

Terry held them up, looking them over before he tossed them to Nicky. “They look better on me.”

Nicky seethed as he counted to thirty and then counted to thirty again, holding his tongue rather than going off on Terry.

Terry turned his attention back to packing, picked up the rune necklace from the dresser that matched the one he was wearing and put it in his pocket.

Nicky’s eyes widened as he did, and he could feel himself getting clammy and cold. “Why are you taking mine?”

“Because I bought them,” Terry reminded him, not even turning around to see the look of hurt on Nicky’s face. Every race since sophomore year they’d worn them as good luck charms. It was hard for Nicky to believe that Terry was actually going to take his away. It was more than a prized possession; it was symbol of failures and triumphs.

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