Going out to meet my Muse for tea and conversation

I’m working on a short story with the suggestive title of “Big Johnson” that I’ve had in my head for many months. While it deploys as much sexual innuendo as I can muster, it’s not really a naughty story. In fact, it’s a highly localized bit of social satire, and it will really only make sense to readers in my community. Nonetheless, I know the perfect magazine for it, and that publication had accepted one of my stories before, responding enthusiastically in about two hours to my submission. So I am hopeful.

As I said, the story has been in my head for many months. I had the glimmer of the idea, and I had a bevy of characters I could recycle from a fizzled novel attempt. The use of sexual metaphor suggested itself almost instantly. And its theme is something I’ve reflected on since I moved to this community nearly twenty-five years ago. What I didn’t have was an ending.

And so I didn’t start writing it. I made notes: a bit of dialogue, suggestive euphemisms, ideas for characterizations, some technical facts about the place involved, that sort of thing. But I waited for my Muse to visit me with the revelation of how to wrap up my clever idea. And I waited. Much of this time was devoted to the rewrites for The Sleep of Reason, but now that that is sufficiently finished (and, mirabile dictu, it’s been submitted to some agents), my creative self has been asking for more work to do.

Thus last weekend I began work on the part of the story I did have: the beginning. The work is going extremely well. I’m having a lot of fun playing with these characters, which I will ridicule mercilessly in my story, and with each pass through the words I seem to find yet another innuendo I can slip in. But my point is that rather than wait for the story to come to me, I am out in pursuit of the story. I’m writing to see how I can develop it, where it will lead. I suspect that I’m going to find my Muse sooner if I go out searching for her rather than wait for her to come to me.

I have mixed feelings about this. Certainly many of my fiction efforts have languished because I waited to be “inspired.” Yet if they remained unfinished, it was because I didn’t have the whole story. Conversely, I have a truckload of stories that are just no good because I kept writing even though I didn’t have sufficient material. So I’m not sure how well it will work for me to write the story that I don’t have wholly in my head.

I’m reading a collection of short stories that I don’t much like. (Tell me, is it proper in British English to use the word “alright”? I’ve seen it a number of times in this collection, and I don’t think an American editor would allow it to remain. Maybe British English is different?) Anyway, these stories don’t seem to have much of a plot. There are events that unfold and come to a conclusion, but they don’t seem integral to the story. They seem more like a mere framework on which to hang the woes and musings of the hard-luck characters. Is this where short story writing is going?

So with my “Big Johnson” story I do have a sort of tortured conversation that will come to a conclusion, and maybe that’s all the framework I need to play around with my characters. The sexual metaphor suggests another way to “complete” the story, and maybe I’ll see if that is “satisfying.”

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One Comment on “Going out to meet my Muse for tea and conversation”


  1. No! ‘Alright’ is NOT all right in the UK, though it is gaining ground because of inferior teaching in our state schools.

    In England, people suggest that it’s acceptable in America…


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