looking down the road

I suppose I’m not different from most other writers who have accumulated a few published stories; I’ve begun to imagine them collected and published as a book. Not all of them, of course. My stories, thus far, have been a diverse lot. The comic pieces like “Moron Saturday” and “Velvet Elvis.” The “serious” pieces like “Unfinished Business,” “Night Train to Kisumu,” and “The Respite Room.” The speculative pieces like “Race to the Summit” and “Diaspora.” The retold myths like (again) “Moron Saturday” and “Pandora’s Tacklebox.”

But in recent weeks I’ve been finding a fresh notion pushing its way into the ferment and torment of my thoughts. You know I’ve been working on a story I’ve code named “Superman.” It’s a story of memory and lost relationships, and its about a son remembering his father. I think I noted in an earlier post here that I realized that many of the notes I’d made for that story didn’t fit but did show themselves to be the beginning ideas for another story. At some point I realized that this other story would deal with that same son and his son, exploring a bit of their relationship. And then two other stories ideas I’ve been fooling around with suggested themselves as belonging in that same character universe. Suddenly I realized that I had three generations of fathers and sons who had stories to tell (or more correctly, who had “lives” on which I could devise and hang stories, but let’s not split that hair).

And now I’m imagining a story collection called Fathers and Sons that would include these stories I’ve toyed with and others yet to come to mind. It’s really begun to take over my imagination, which I don’t suppose is a bad thing, but it’s crowding out other plans I had, which I suppose may be a good thing. Perhaps not coincidentally, the stories seem to be in orbit around a little cabin in the woods that the three men visit. (And cigars are suggesting themselves, but only as cigars.)

Of course one written story and ideas for three more don’t a collection make, but, wow, what a motivation, what a focus it’s been providing for me in recent weeks. I guess we’ll find out in a couple of years where this takes me.

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5 Comments on “looking down the road”

  1. Pete Says:

    My first attempt at a story collection was a mess – a jumbled mishmash of long stories, flash fiction and several pieces that were little more than character sketches, all written over the course of several years. Despite including several good stories, it read horribly as a collection. My latest collection is much more successful, since I wrote it as a unified project with much more of an overhanging theme. Thus, I encourage you to go with your Fathers and Sons concept – that focus you mentioned will definitely direct and motivate you as you write more stories, and I think the finished project will be much more cohesive.

  2. LauraMaylene Says:

    Isn’t it so exhilarating when you first start to think about some of your stories making up a collection? I still remember when I first realized all those stories I’d written and revised (and revised, and revised) over the years might make a collection…I stayed up way too late to spend hours rooting out all my drafts, considering rewrites, wondering how they’d work together in one collection…and now of course I have *Living Arrangements.* Sometimes just having that vision for the future is enough to push you on to finish it. Good luck!


  3. I love story collections! (Especially as beautiful and brilliant as our mutual friend Laura’s, above.)

    I’m toying with an idea of an essay collection, myself, but the market for that is tough…

    Good luck with this, Paul!

  4. Sonje Says:

    Last time, I compared you to John Irving. Now it’s Ernest Hemingway! Some might say you’re moving on up (although I personally like Irving better). I’m sure you know that Hemingway kept coming back up with short story ideas for his character, Nick Adams through the 1920s and 1930s, and most of those stories were later collected into a book called “The Nick Adams Stories.”

    I wonder if it wouldn’t be better to see if you end up with enough stories about this one family to make a collection rather than three of this one family and then… seven? about different families. Once you tip your hand to three stories about one particular character/family, they might stop “going with” anything else even if they have similar themes. Just my opinion, of course!

  5. Averil Dean Says:

    Yay for story collections! That is what I’m going to work on next. I’ve got the beginnings of a collection of erotic noir, and what I hope are some strong ideas to add to it.

    I think you’re on to something with the Fathers and Sons idea, around the cabin in the woods. I’ve always enjoyed Maeve Binchy’s approach to short stories, in which she finds a bit of common ground and sends the characters out from that point. It provides a built-in cohesion for the collection.


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