I started writing when I was 9 years old. It was a simpler time back then when a scraped knee was the biggest problem in my life.
The stories back then were simplistic. But they were stories. When I watched cartoons I was captivated by the main characters in them. No matter what the circumstances, they would pull through, usually learning a lesson or two in the meantime.
Reboot, Beast Wars, the old Johnny Quest series. All of them had larger than life figures doing things that were far from ordinary. And they spoke to me in a way that I couldn’t understand.
So I’d take a blank page from the printer and a crayon and I’d write stories. I wish I had kept them. But they’re gone, like so many other memories of my childhood. Writing it all down just seemed so right. It didn’t matter that they weren’t very good. There was no plot to speak of and they rarely lasted more than a page or so. I definitely wouldn’t be able to sell them nowadays.
But they were mine and that mattered. Every movie you’ve seen, every book you’ve read, they’re all recycled in one way or another. There are no more original ideas. Just facsimilies and twists. And that’s what mine were, too. That’s what mine are nowadays as well, for the record.
I remember one so vividly – I finished watching Spiderman and I wrote about it. For a child, I thought it was great, but it wasn’t. I think it was closer to fan fiction than an actual story since I had even ripped off most of the names. Spiderman goes back in time. Don’t try to tell me that it hasn’t been done already.
But the more I matured in the craft, the more the stories I’d write became my own. It sucks, in a way. Now, at thirty and far from mastery of my craft I can see the invisible threads which hold stories together.
The bildungsroman – the coming of age story. The heroic epic and the eventual fall. The redemption story. The closer you look, the more apparent the strings become until everything is predictable.
But that’s what stories are.
What makes a story great, after all, isn’t the plot. It’s the characters. If you can make them memorable, if you can make them resonate with your audience then you’ve got something. After all, you see the threads too, even if you don’t know it.
That’s why you know the next Hugh Grant movie ends with him getting the girl. That’s why you know that Thanos isn’t going to win in the upcoming Avengers movie.
You know these things and you watch anyways. Why? Because the characters you see in them either remind you of yourself in one way or another or they are who you wish you were.
It’s all the same. Only the names will change.
So why do people write stories?
For me, it’s because I have to. It’s a weird concept I know, but it’s true. The first book I started writing didn’t start as a book. It started as a weird jumble of high emotion. I wrote about thirty pages, none of them linked together by anything other than emotion.
But once I started, I couldn’t stop. That didn’t mean I wrote every day – far from it actually. I wrote to make me feel better, and that has to count for something.
Eventually, the plot started to separate itself from my ramblings. I don’t know where the idea came from, as much as I want to say that I do. I just know that I wanted to write it down so I could see how the trainwreck ended.
Authors don’t write for their fans, for the most part. This is because if we were to do so, we wouldn’t be writing the story in our heads the way it’s supposed to be. And that’s not fair to the story.
You take something that is incredibly personal in a way and you make it available to anyone with $10.50 and an Amazon account. It truly is the most introverted and extroverted thing you can do.
But that feeling of the words flowing through my fingers and onto the page is so liberating. It feels like the air before a big thunderstorm – electric with anticipation.
And when you stop it feeling like the storm has cleared, and the air is somehow crisper than it was before, the petrichor caressing your nostrils like a lover.
What a writer has to do is describe things that most people would consider undescribable. Like what it feels like to be in love, above and beyond that feeling of walking on air.
Or what it feels like to be in love with the person sitting beside you, when you know they can’t, or won’t, reciprocate your feelings.
Or describing those times when you feel sad for no reason at all other than a smell reminded you of a lost time in your childhood.
Next time you watch a rom-com, watch for the strings.
And remember: People fall in love like they fall asleep. Slowly, then all at once.