I’m currently away from the Internet, celebrating Thanksgiving with family, the best way to celebrate any holiday. Those good feelings prompted me to compose the following free-write in my “Finding Mister Wright” universe:
This one concerns family, of course, and cooking, just like I promised. It’s long, so I don’t expect anyone at all to read it. But it was a story of Rob and his mother that had been nagging at me for a while to be written, so I answered the only way I knew how, to write it. Paige is here, and Daniel, too, as well as a few new faces. Some of them are even new to Rob and the rest! There are real if subtle conflicts here between mother and son, father and daughter, brother and sister, that I’ve experienced in one way or another across my many years. As always, the stories help me understand those experiences a little bit better, but hopefully if you read this one, you’ll get some enjoyment out of it, too.
This is not a real post. I was going to talk about keeping balance in my writerly life, but I can’t manage it right now. This was a rough week all around – at work, at home, in my head – and I just needed to take a break with people who care for and about each other, even if it’s only in my stupid, self-indulgent fiction.
I wrote this in a day, between work, emails, cooking supper, and everything else, and I’ve never written from Paige’s perspective before, but it’s part of my writing effort and I have to support it for being that. A story based on personal experience, just not the part I would have wanted.
I think about death a lot. Not mine, so much, because there’s little point in that. I try to eat well, exercise, look both ways before crossing the street, that sort of thing. Beyond that, we’re all basically at the mercy of fate, and stressing over when my time will be up won’t change the ticking of the clock. I still think about it a lot, though.
I think a lot about love, too. The love between a parent and a child, between siblings, between lovers lucky enough to find each other in a great big world full of so many different individuals. How love can divide but also unite. How its grace can fill our lives with happiness, from the most mundane interactions to the most life-changing.
I also think about love and death together. How one can make the other sweet or terrifying, and how that can go either way, for both. Because I think so much and so often about death and love, they come up again and again in my writing. Sometimes, their place is blatant in a story, sometimes not. I think the former applies to my latest “Finding Mister Wright” short:
“Thirty-Nine” Another “Finding Mister Wright” story
(PDF will open in a new window; ~2800 words/9 pages DS)
I can’t always explain why I write the stories I do, but this one – looking at aging, love, and death – came to me as I spied a “Frozen”-themed birthday cake in a bakery window and thought about the kids who won’t have another birthday, this year.
I don’t apologize for where this story goes, for the love or the death, because I like to think both make us stronger, in their own ways and eventually. Whether you read the story or not, and whether you agree with me or not, keep in mind the significance of love and death in your own lives, both the fantastic ones you put to the page and the true one you build around you.
My main writing project at the moment has a fair amount of deep-and-dark in it, and when I fear I’m becoming a bit too mired in that sort of thing, I need to take a step back with something a bit more light and flighty. Lately, that’s been the cast of misfit characters from “Finding Mister Wright,” my short story/novella from this past winter holiday break.
I usually write for Marshall’s life when I take up these characters again, but, this time, it was Rob who commandeered my brain. What’s funny is that the original story idea I had for these characters centered around Rob, Paige, and Daniel. In my earliest notes, Marshall barely played a role beyond counterpoint to Daniel. Of course, that changed when I finally started putting voices together in my head, and I found Marshall had a (rather significant) story all his own. The relationship story between Rob and his own family took a backseat to that of the Wright brothers, and Marshall and his loves in particular. But, Rob’s story has remained important, at least to me. He’s just as complicated as Marshall proved to be, but in a way that’s somehow more relaxed.
After my husband read “FMW,” he made the comment that he thought all the characters worked for their own reasons, but Rob was his favorite. “At first,” he told me, “you think he’s just one thing. Then, you learn a little more, and he becomes more than that. And then, there’s [a conversation], and you realize, oh, this guy really has three dimensions to him.” While it might have offered me a greater ego boost to hear my main protagonist was my husband’s favorite character, a part of me was really happy that Rob’s original story shone through in his few scenes, to the point where he made an impression on a reader.
A moment of weakness led to this six-pager (it clocks in at around 2,900 words), which I wrote over three commuter train rides and a lunch hour. It’s rough and a bit scattered, but that’s one of the reasons I find free writing so…well, free. No worries over themes, scope, flow, or any of the important parts of a mature work. It’s just my fingers translating for my brain.
“Romance-in-the-Dark” (PDF, 314KB) I hate to have to offer a warning about this, but be aware: the principal romantic relationship depicted in this particular free-write is about two men. There’s nothing explicit herein, but if you’re uncomfortable with the idea, just skip it and watch the lovely lady in the video below, instead.
The whole thing – Rob’s story, the original idea for “Finding Mister Wright,” as well as this free-write – is heavily inspired by the lovely and awesomely talented Catherine Russell’s rendition of Lil Greene’s jazz standard, “Romance in the Dark,” which you can listen to and watch below. It’s a mainstay in my FMW writing playlist, and I usually hit repeat at least once when it comes up in rotation.
Before we get to Ms. Russell, here’s my question for this week: Have you ever had a minor character hijack a story for his or her own? If so, how did the story turn out?
“No.” An indifferent shrug. That question seemed to nag at everyone else; it wasn’t the first time it had come up in conversation. “But, he doesn’t have to.”
“It doesn’t bother you?”
Again: “No.” And, again, a shrug. “They’re just words.”
“But they’re words you’re supposed to say, when you feel that way.”
A chuckle, but without mirth. “The last time he said those words were to his wife.” A quick shake of the head loosed the congealing doubts, like marbles startled in a jar. “I don’t think he’ll ever say them to anyone again.”
“What about you? Have you ever told him?”
A pause, now, to consider that: the step not taken, for both their fears. Then, another, slower shake. “It wouldn’t change anything. He’d still be who he is. We’d still be where we are.”
It was a guess. A good one, more accurate than not, come through a witting, impish smile.
It would have been nice to smile back. But it wouldn’t have been true. So, with a stilted, breaking breath, the muttered honest answer:
My brain is such a mess at the moment, this sort of melancholy piece is all I can get out, right now.