another week, another story (and other bits and pieces)
I started on a new Fathers and Sons story over the weekend. Yeah, I know. You’re bored of hearing me talk about the same thing here each post. But this is still a new place for me to be in, so obsessed, so driven by getting these stories down, by discovering them “out there.”
It’s not so much a story as a vignette. At this point I don’t see some crisis moment or any change that the characters undergo as a conventionally structured story would have. It’s just a day in the life observation, and at the end of the day, the three characters go to bed. The working title is “Men at work and play,” and I think I’ll keep it since I have a sort of parallel story that will occur many years later in the timeline that I want to call “Men at rest.” (I’ve been busy re-titling a lot of these stories lately.)
So, okay, I guess I can admit to myself now that I’m writing a sort of novel. It won’t be all that conventional, at least in terms of narrative structure. I have some stories that occur within days of each other, but then I jump ahead a decade or so between others. I leave a lot of events implied and never address them specifically in the narrative. (At least that’s how I envision it all now.) I’ve said here before (I think) that the stories span more than thirty years in the lives of a grandfather, father, and son. There’s a lot of story to tell in that time for three people, but I can’t tell it all. And since these are intended as stories about fathers and sons, a lot of what happens in their lives (in everyone’s lives) is not directly related. (For example, the voices in my head are telling me about the relationships between husbands and wives in this universe, and while those might be worthy stories — even ones I could write someday — they are only tangents to what I need to write now.)
I’ve said before (at least I think I have) that I sometimes fear my story “Velvet Elvis” will be the zenith of my humble writing career. I don’t believe that is the case anymore, especially if even one of the Fathers and Sons stories sees publication, but I also think that if that were the case, I would have nothing to be ashamed of. Sure, it’s a light hearted story and not a deep, meaningful bit of literary gravitas, but I think it is well imagined and well told. I’m not sure where I was going with this, but here comes my next point:
I ran my first 5K race over the weekend. “Race” is not the right word, and for what I do, “run” is certainly not the right word either. For me, there is a danger in being too much in my mind when I run; it feels easy to convince myself that I should stop, that I’m too tired to press on, that my legs are exhausted, that the spots dancing before my eyes or the ringing in my ears is a coded message telling me to stop. I think that’s why a lot of people run with partners or in groups. To force themselves to get outside of themselves as they run so they don’t succumb to such negative thought. I don’t have a running partner (other than my dog, who wasn’t allowed to enter the 5K, and probably couldn’t complete it anyway), and I’ve never been one for groups. So for me to get outside of myself, I go deeper into myself. I work on my stories as I run. And as I was slogging through that 5K (how do people manage to complete actual 26-mile marathons?) I started working on a wholly new Fathers and Sons story (not the one I began this weekend). And it has to do with — surprise — running. Is that cliched? Using some significant life experience for story fodder? (Let’s see. I’ve already used the loss of a parent, the death of a childhood friend, and first-time sex as story topics. Yep, I’m cliched!)
But the story blossomed easily in my head, and I could see instantly how it could not only fit into my F&S narrative line but how it could show the evolving dynamic between one of those fathers and one of those sons. It was actually a little scary how it arrived almost fully formed in my head (as an integrated idea, not as a completed story, of course). But these are stories of the everyday lives of everyday kinds of people. And so even the most commonplace event can (and probably should) feature in their stories. Thus if I am building some experience with running, I suppose it’s fair material to use in a story. (Don’t look for any stories from me dealing with the world of particle physics, okay?)
But to come back nearly to the full circle, when does it end? If I am writing a novel of sorts, when do I have the range of stories complete in my head? When will new ideas stop presenting themselves? And when will ideas for other, unrelated stories start presenting themselves? I suppose it’s wrong for me to complain about having such a wealth of ideas. Now if I only had a wealth of talent. I guess I’ll go running and think about that.
Update August 5, 2014 – Here we are, nearly two years later, and so much has changed. I have four of my fathers and sons stories published (including “Men at work and play”), and many more of them written, a few even out in circulation. “Velvet Elvis”, while a fine story, has not been my zenith. (I reserve that for “The Lonely Road”, until a new high point comes along.) Since this post, I’ve run plenty of 5Ks, a half dozen 10Ks, and four half marathons. I’m training now to run my first full marathon in October. So, keeping on is paying off.