Not long ago, I posted a very short story entitled, “Gettin’ my John Boy On.” It was written in fifteen minutes as a “quick write” at a gathering of other writers here in Tucson. And some of you really liked it.
Today, I’m going to share another story with you that was far more ambitious—if you like it, click that link and review it, if you wish. I’d love that!
But first…the story behind the story. I wrote this story as an “assignment” for a wonderful…I’m not sure what to call this thing I’ve got myself into. It’s called Story Cartel.
And its purpose is, according to Joe Bunting--the young genius who also created a very informative online writing “workbook” called The Write Practice--is to help writers create their own “cartels,” with whom they can share ideas.
They can also use that cartel to buck the system used by Amazon.com and many other sites which allow authors to publish their own books almost instantaneously, whenever they bloody well please. That system will publicize your book more eagerly if you’re able to convince say…100 friends and family members to write reviews of your book.
And if people see you at the top of the “best seller” lists on Amazon and sites that keep track of what’s “trending” on Amazon, they may decide to buy the book to see what all the gushing is about.
It’s a smart, common sense way of playing the “game.” And it works. Which is why Amazon is now devouring other sites like Goodreads at an alarming pace. Goodreads boasts tens of thousands of members whotell the world what’s hot and what’s not. And Amazon, which publishes through their Kindle Store and Createspace, where I createdThe Keka Collection not long ago, is blazing.
But…my very short story’s not the kind of story that hits the top ten. And that’s fine with me. Because it got me back in touch with that young girl inside me who sometimes still loves to write even more for herself than for anyone else.
I was experimenting with several things.
First, I wanted to see if I could write a story in the same way I write scripts. Present tense, as if it’s happening “right now” as you watch. Lots of “white space” on the page: bare bones.
No character descriptions—or just the tiniest bit, because you have no control over what actors will play the characters you’re creating. Very little description of the settings, because…ditto. You may get that mansion on the hill, but…probably not.
And it is just good writing in any genre to “show, not tell.” If you cannot tell what the characters are like by what they say and do…it’s not good writing.
Or so they say.
So I throw you into the "middle" of a much longer slice of life. No life vest. You gotta swim through it. That's a screen trick, too--"...start as late in the scene as you possibly can," the gurus suggest. The audience should, if the scene works, be able to figure out all the backstory over time.
I have found, when toying with this approach previously, that a delicious “ambiguity” occurs—of the sort you find in some poetry. There are clues about how the characters look and think and where they might be…but you have to find them. The way you have to find tidbits and decode the language to help you figure out what a poem “means.”
I like that. I liked that cryptic first chapter of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury so much as a kid that I was determined to do what he did. I also liked Joyce’s Ulysses. And Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead—Stoppard is another of my early heroes. Waiting for Godot? Loved it. Including the waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
Plot? Feh. Action? Well…if you insist. But…I’d prefer a tantalizing puzzle—bring ‘em on and let ‘em walk and talk. Force me to put it all together and make the light go on “manually” and I’ll follow you anywhere. I'm weird like that.
So…I’m going to give you that story now. And leave you to pick up the little crumbs of clues that tell you what’s going on here. As I’ve said, I’d love to have some reviews—and it’s being sold for all of $.99 so if it gets on one of those top seller lists, it’ll probably do well.
I wanted to make it free, but Kindle wouldn’t let me under the marketing choice I preferred. I want people to read it. And if it needs reviews to get that to happen, then…so be it. But I’m obviously not going to get rich. That ain’t the point. At least this time.
It’s called “Deadline,” and…there’s the link again.
Later, if you wish, I’ll “explain.” But those of you who go in for this sort of thing probably won’t need it. Here you go:
“You don’t take me seriously!” she says, plopping onto a sofa.
He swivels his desk chair to face her. She grabs and hugs a large pillow, one foot jiggling impatiently.
“Women always say that—what does that even mean?”
“What do you care?”
“Perfect! You ask for attention, then you don’t want it. I reallycannot understand—“
“I love it when you become the subject of the discussion Istarted!”
He sighs and folds his arms. Then swivels, shuts the laptop, and swivels around to face her again.
“I’m all yours!”
“What is this about, huh? Seriously—I’m on deadline.”
She raises her chin slightly.
“Truer words were never spoken.”
“And now I have to be a mind reader, too.”
“You don’t have to be anything!”
She sits back, staring. It’s an impressive poker face.
He sits back and stares, too. It’s not quite as effective—his impatience shows.
He says, “Veiled threat. Well played.”
“This is not a game.”
She throws the pillow toward, if not at, him.
“I hate it when you do this!”
“What’s…this…exactly? So far, I ‘ve turned to give you my undivided attention and…that’s about it.”
“That’s ‘this’! That…thing you do, that makes me feel about 10-years-old!”
“If the shoe fits, right? I’m ‘way ahead of you!”
“Baby, what is—“
“Oooo, very Freudian.”
“No, not really. It wasn’t…well…it wasn’t Freudian.”
She smirks and rolls her eyes. But doesn’t speak.
He rises and heads over to the sofa. But sits on the arm of it. The arm farthest from where she’s sitting.
“I really do have a deadline, okay? Can we get to the point of all this or—“
“So what’s more important? Having me in your life or making that deadline?”
“That deadline…deadlines…are how I pay for…everything! And God knows everything is what keeps you interested.”
He sighs and runs a hand through his hair. Notices, in his reflection in a mirror on the wall not far away, that he’s gone a little more gray at the temples. Runs his fingers through the gray on the right side.
“You have to be kidding me!” she cries.
She folds her arms and stares. He smiles.
“You are really lookin’ for a fight today! Let’s do it! Startswingin’!”
He puts up his “dukes” like a fighter in the ring. She doesn’t smile.
“Baby girl…this is what I do. And all this,” he swings an arm in a slow arc, as if inviting her to take a good look at the opulence surrounding them. It’s a penthouse apartment. Expensive décor. Incredible view of an incredible city. Some would say the most incredible city of all.
She hugs herself even tighter.
“It’s not mine, it’s yours.”
“It will be yours,” he says. “Someday. A day which you are probably hoping will come soon.”
“I don’t want it.”
“Ah. Predictable, but…effective.”
He sits nodding pensively, for a few beats. Then smiles at her.
“What do you want? World peace doesn’t count—real answer, please?”
She looks away. Runs a hand through her long, blond hair. He smiles. He likes that hair. He likes her. Loves her. Even when she’s like this.
He slides down onto the sofa and folds his arms the way hers are folded. She does not look at him.
So he slides over an inch or two. She turns and glares.
He slides over another few inches. Arms still folded. Letting out a little petulant puff of air as he lands a little closer to her. She continues to glare, but there’s something in the eyes…
He falls over, resting his head on her shoulder. She tries to push him off, but he falls right back—gently. And turns his face so that she can see the puppy dog eyes and the playfully quivering lip.
“God, you are so annoying!” she cries. But she’s smiling—she tries to make the smile less…smiley. But then she laughs. And shoves him harder.
He sits up straight. Turns to face her, folding his legs into lotus position. Grateful, suddenly, for the yoga lessons he’s paying a small fortune for. Because she insisted he exercise more instead of sitting in front of “that damned computer” all the time.
“If I didn’t take you seriously, I wouldn’t have all this. It’s the scripts I’ve written about you and me and your mother and…everything else—that word again—that has given us all this. You…are my inspiration, my dear.”
“And you…are full of shit. My darling.”
She says it almost lovingly. He leans to kiss the shoulder he leaned on a moment ago.
“Many critics agree with that assessment,” he says, adding a little nose tweak for good measure.
He loves her nose, too. Even if it’s like her mother’s. He loved her mother once, too. Still does, but the way he loves her now is very different. But also, very real.
“I just want…I wanna spend some time with you when I’m spending time with you,” she says with a resigned sigh. “And quit being so damned charming—listen to me, for once.”
“Oh, I always do! It’s money in the bank, the stuff you say—no kidding.”
“Stop it, damn you!”
He attacks and she squeals as he tickles her relentlessly. He loves, most of all, her laugh. And does not stop until he has heard every version of it. He will write about it later after her visit is over. But not because it makes him money.
He will write about it because he misses her. So very much.”