Writing Confessions: I Have Story Commitment Issues

17500

I recently made it to 17,500 words on the WIP. It is now, according to the Wikipedia word-count page, officially a novella. (Maybe that’s not impressive to those word-count powerhouses out there, but let me have my moment!) What began as a short story in college (and stayed that way for quite a few years) expanded into a few more pages with character development and has now grown into a novella-sized piece with the introduction of a few mysterious and disturbing events. The closer the story gets to its climax the more I wonder about why its taken me so long to get here. Why the hell am I only now nearing the end of my first novella?

And why haven’t I written a novel or novella before?

Well, heh, I’ve tried.

There were a few over the years that reached the 50-page mark before being abandoned. It happened a couple times. As soon as I pushed past page 49, my interests went elsewhere: to a new short story idea that was so interesting, it demanded my full attention, or to some new music I chose to focus on. Around that point, I always convinced myself that I was basically throwing words into a well—to finish the project would be a waste of time because I convinced myself along the way that the story was inherently flawed, boring, or a combination of the two things.

How did I finally choose the right story to finish this time?

Out of all the short stories I have written in the past few years, this is the one that had the most set up that just tapered off: characters with flaws that begged to be explored, the introduction of complex issues that interested me, and it was set in a friggin’ factory farm—one of the most disturbing settings available. What could that kind of work to do my characters? Are they all truly desensitized? Is there something more going on, like, is the factory actually haunted as the townsfolk insist? I felt that there was something to discover raveled in those dark themes. There were questions about human nature that demanded more space than a short story can accommodate.

Those are some reasons. But the real reason, damnit, was that I finally decided to just pick something and stick it out. There were self-deprecating habits to unlearn, and it wasn’t going to happen by just abandoning story after story.

So Many Options …

Like others with commitment issues, there’s the fear of making the wrong choice. That there’s some inherent flaw that’s just waiting to be discovered or something important that wasn’t initially contemplated. There’s the feeling that there’s some better idea with better characters making its way toward you, and if you’re tied up in one project, you won’t have time for this newer, better idea.

I now use that feeling as motivation. I take those new ideas, type them up in Evernote, then tell myself that once I complete the project that I’m currently working on, I can devote my efforts to the shiny new story.

Making a Connection

A short story is its own art form.

You delve into a snippet of life and examine and obsess over it because every little word is important. You examine your character’s motivation for acting that way in that situation. With a longer piece, there’s a more intimate understanding of your character since you see him or her react in several situations. You see your character’s good side and her flaws as well, probably multiple times. Before you know it, you have history together. You’ve become invested, and there’s the comfort of returning to what’s familiar when you sit down to write. (Well, at least until your  character does something crazy. Then you’re like, “who are you??”)

Working on a longer piece is like visiting an old friend when you sit down to write. It’s fun and thrilling to flirt with shorter pieces of work to establish your writing identity and discover themes or topics to explore, but sooner or later you want to settle down with that longer project for a more fulfilling writing experience.

Getting Over the Fear of Commitment

I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing shorter fiction, but at least I’m no longer scared of getting past that 50-page mark and continuing on. With the way that things are going, I think I’m improving. There might be a novel in my future. Though, I don’t think I’m allowed to say that I had commitment issues until I finish the new WIP. Onward!

How I Met Your Mother: The Conclusion (Fan Fic Ending Theory)

A guess at the ending scenes of How I Met Your Mother:

ist2_4271412-yellow-umbrella

INT. LIVING ROOM – EVENING

(NARRATOR, DAUGHTER, SON)

NARRATOR (O.S.):

And that’s how I met your mother, kids. I’d like to think that, if she were here today, she’d tell the same stories to let you know we were once young and carefree before she got sick. I don’t want you only having memories of hospital visits, her lying in a bed and me pacing. I want you to know that we used to dance, argue, hang out with friends, and worry about silly things. I want you to know that there was more to our lives than the past few years of money troubles and treatments and visiting endless specialists.

SERIES OF PHOTOS OF TED GETTING MARRIED, ON A HONEYMOON, HOLDING A BABY. THE PHOTOS FADE AS THEY BRING US CLOSER TO THE PRESENT.

NARRATOR (O.S.):

There was adventure and hope in finding the woman of my dreams, and even though a good chunk of our time together was spent watching her slowly slip away from me, it was all worth it.

INT. BAR – NIGHT

(OLDER TED, BARNEY, LILY, MARSHALL, ROBIN, NARRATOR)

THEY SIT SILENTLY STARING AT THEIR DRINKS. MARSHALL GIVES TED A HUG.

NARRATOR (O.S.):

You see, kids, I don’t want you going through life being scared of love or being fearful that the one thing you love the most is going to slip away from you. That’s not the whole story. That’s only part of it. That’s the story of how we lost your mother.

WE EXIT THE BAR WITH TED TO FIND IT’S STORMY OUTSIDE. HE OPENS HIS YELLOW UMBRELLA AND THE WIND TAKES IT AWAY. WE FOLLOW THE UMBRELLA AS IT FLIES.

NARRATOR (O.S.):

The story of how I met your mother, well, you know how long it is. And her story continues, through you both.

INT. LIVING ROOM 

AUNT LILY WALKS IN AND HANDS THE MISSING UMBRELLA TO THE DAUGHTER. SHE BEGRUDGINGLY TAKES IT. WE FOLLOW HER TO HER ROOM WHERE SHE LEANS THE UMBRELLA AGAINST A WALL. THERE IT STAYS NEGLECTED.

NARRATOR (O.S.):

But the thing I really hope that you take away from this is that it was a series of events, good as well as bad, that led me to exactly where I needed to be. Looking back, it all makes sense now. It just didn’t make sense then.

FINALLY, WE SEE THE DAUGHTER GRAB THE UMBRELLA AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT. SHE OPENS IT AS SHE STEPS OUTSIDE. WE FOLLOW HER TO A STOPLIGHT. A HANDSOME BOY, HER SAME AGE, POINTS TO THE UMBRELLA AND STRIKES UP A CONVERSATION. WE SEE HER SMILE FOR THE FIRST TIME.

NARRATOR (O.S.):

I know that, for both of you and myself included, nothing has made much sense. But maybe we’ll look back on this and it will, a very long time from now.

——-

OK, so this is my fan fic ending to the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Does it work? I have no idea, I was recently introduced to the show, and I’m only halfway through the fourth season. So, I’m not currently up-to-date with what’s going on. This fan fic was borne out of my wonderings of why the mother isn’t there telling the story along with Ted, how absent she is, and what the lesson of the story would be if she was no longer with them.

Since the series does have a heavy theme of fate and how things happen for a reason (there’s a lesson learned every episode), this could easily lead the show to a somber ending where Ted is trying to make sense of tragic events for the kids. This event could possibly be a death (not necessarily the mother), and though it doesn’t make sense to them now, the lesson could be that, as time progresses, they’ll realize that certain events happen for a reason. Even if those events are horrible.

Of course, I hope that this isn’t the real ending. That would be kind of a bummer, huh?

Also, in my first draft, I ended it with “I hope this also explains why your Aunt Robin is moving in with us. There’s a lot of history there, kids.”

That would probably be even worse. I probably shouldn’t write sitcoms.

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George

George

by

C.L. Gordon

 

Could it really be George? Out here in this desert?

The cracked clay under his bare feet–it reminded him of the texture of his snake skin boots. He should’ve worn them out here. Silly not to. Though, he didn’t remember leaving them. He didn’t remember his skin feeling this dry.

He thought to call the dog over. Company would be nice. But it couldn’t be George. George was long gone.

And he had to get home.

Which way was home?

The dog trotted over, tail wagging. A wet nose and two eyes shined like three points of polished onyx. Those floppy ears. It was his old golden retriever. The old nuisance! Long gone, always underfoot George! He would help. He would lead him home.

The man stepped forward and the dog’s tail stopped.

The golden retriever anxiously trotted back and forth sending brown tufts of dust to disperse in the still air, all the while keeping his eyes on the man. The man took another step, eager to start the journey. George barked. A warning.

The man recalled that George had always been a nervous dog. He raised his hand slowly and inched forward, hoping a gentle pet would assuage the anxious, pacing animal. George straightened his legs and lowered his head—the hair along his back bristled and he snarled.

“Come on, George,” the man raised his hand a little more.

A flurry of sharp barks were issued. He lowered his hand and the dog quieted, reverting back to his busy pacing.

“George, it’s me,” the man raised his hand, inciting a fresh firing of agitated protests.

Something came over the man.

Furious at the dog’s insubordination, the man lunged forward, fist clinched in remembrance of his usual discipline.

George whimpered and crouched. Then he ran. Fast as the sprint of a greyhound. Legs pushing the ground underneath with the ease of a pup. The man bolted after him, arms outstretched, anger rising at this unexpected flight from his fury. The speed was bewildering, George’s arthritis gone. The man took a lungful of  the blossoming brown dust trail raised by George’s paws. He coughed and cursed.

The man ran and spit obscenities at the faint figure of a canine, growing lighter and lighter in the blooms of dust. The dog disappeared from view. He trudged to a stop, breathing deep with each heavy step. There was nothing to do but hunch over, place his hands on his knees, and think how he’d renew the limp in George’s right back leg when he caught up to him.

The choked air cleared, revealing the bleached and cracked ground. The lines between each giant shard of clay widened and dissolved into endless black deeps, making each shard its own little island. Some jagged plates hovered upward, some sank. The man looked around to see a labyrinth of desert distorting his sense of direction, masking the golden horizon.

“Stupid dog,” the man mumbled, deciding which direction to commit to.

How could such a dumb animal be sent as his guide? The man shook his head.

Alone, he hopped from plate to plate until determination slowly yield to defeat. His dry eyes watered. He wept.