Flash Fiction Challenge – Pop Culture Mash Up

This week’s flash fiction contest at http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/ was a mash up of two random pop culture things. I got Scooby Do meets Donnie Darko. . . this is the result. . .

 

Getting It Right

“This week on Ghost Catchers we are heading into the halls of education that became the halls of death!” Fred gave a dramatic pause.

“Cut!” The director screamed in his earpiece.

“What’s wrong with that?” Fred asked incredulously, sure his introduction was perfect.

“Fred, your selfie camera is angled up your left nostril.” The director explained in a pinched voice, then exhaled loudly over the radio, and said, “Just tilt it up some, ok?”

“Oh.” Fred readjusted his camera and then started over; pausing only briefly to wonder just how stoned the shaggy headed director was getting back in the control van. “Ok . . . take two. This week on Ghost Catchers we are heading into the halls of education that became the halls of death!” He gave a dramatic pause before swinging around his camera to show their guest hunter of the week. “And with us is the student that escaped these halls once and now he is coming back again to face the spirits of his fellow students who died here.”

The guest host looked at him blankly. Fred waited for a response and when he was sure the guy was just going to stare at him and say nothing, he swung the camera back to himself and continued the introduction. “Two years ago a student entered these halls on a normal Monday morning and went to his home room, just like he always did. Once there though he detonated a bomb he was carrying in his backpack killing himself and the 20 students in the classroom. The horror of those moments has been permanently etched in these halls and people from the local area swear they have seen and heard the students screaming over and over again at night.”

“You know you sound like a complete tool, right?” The guest hunter said.

Fred paused, bewildered.

“Just thought someone should tell you because no one else seems to.” The guest hunter finished, shrugged, and started walking to the homeroom.

“Wait. Hey! You are with us, we are the investigators!” Fred called out looking to his teammates for support. Daphne was busy trying to figure out why her bra was glowing through her shirt in the night vision cameras and arguing with the producer about it. He wanted her to leave it because it would increase ratings. Velma was trying to control their dog Scooby that supposedly could sense ghosts, usually by yelping and running in the opposite direction as fast as possible. Fred realized he was on his own.

“Fred, dude, we’ll fix it in editing.” The director told him in the earpiece. “Just roll with it and go on.” Fred gave a scowl and then hurried after the guest hunter.

“Hey,” Fred called out and then realized that he didn’t even know the guy’s name. ”Hey, what’s your name again?”

The guest hunter didn’t pause, he just waved Fred’s question off like some bothersome gnat flitting about his head and walked purposefully to the blasted classroom doorway. “Go away Fred.” He called back as Fred caught up with him.

“Hey dude, I’m the star of this show so you listen to. . .” Fred began to say but the guest cut him off.

“No Fred, you are the douche of the show that thinks he’s the star and this isn’t about EVPs or any of that other ghost hunter horseshit. This is about them and me and something that went wrong.” The guest turned to him, his face calm but stern. “I was there. I was supposed to be there. They can’t stop being there till I go back so this isn’t about your little show, this is about them; the students that died that can’t stop dying till I get it right.”

Fred looked totally confused. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

“That morning, I was there, in the room with them. The bomber, he had a moment where he thought that maybe he shouldn’t do it. I mean really, really thought about it and when that happened I saw him leave the room, I saw him go outside and I followed him. When I left, he blew up the room. I wasn’t supposed to see that moment but I did and I left when I was supposed to stay.” The guest explained but seeing the blank look on Fred’s face he knew he was totally lost.

“All you need to know is I agreed to be on this piece of crap show because it was the only way I could get back into this building again.” The guest said.

“We have won several local cable awa. . .” Fred protested.

The guest went on talking over Fred. “Sometimes when we have two choices we create a divergence of reality. He had a choice to go home or to stay and kill. I saw that thought about going and followed it but he stayed and killed everyone. I wasn’t supposed to see it and I was supposed to stay and die. Now there are two realities fighting it out and these kids can’t finish the dying without me.” A hellish light began to emanate from the room and they could hear faint screams starting and then begin to grow louder. “Every night, they’re still dying until I get it right. Both realities can’t exist, one has to end.”

Fred was totally lost but Velma had come up and understood what the guest was saying. “So you have to redo the day with them, the right way?” The guest nodded. “Can you tell us your name at least?”

“Unknown Remains #12. The new kid whose foster family never reported missing, whose paperwork never got filed in time.” He smiled a bittersweet smile, “I’m Unknown Remains #12, nice to meet you.”

Velma’s eyes welled up with tears. He saw that and smiled at her. “I’ve got to go.” She nodded.

He turned and went into the classroom.

 

This time he got it right.

 

Flash Fiction – July 24th – Essay

This week’s flash fiction from Chuck Wendig’s Blog is an essay on why I write. . .what makes me a writer? What compels and drives me to do this? In contemplation of this I have come to understand something about myself hitherto unknown or at least unspoken. I am not a writer.

I am a storyteller.

Writing is one version of this but I also enjoy telling stories orally. My artwork tells a story . . .at least it does when it turns out right. That is what compels me, the need to tell stories. Though, I will admit, the “I can tell stories through interpretive dance” thought line was a bad idea from the get-go and I do apologize for that, it won’t happen again.

The reason why I write is that it is one way of telling stories and a way I can tell the stories to as many people as possible. So then, the question is not “why I write” for me but rather what drives me to tell stories? The answer to that is rather simplistic and straightforward. I tell stories because it makes me happy to tell stories.

The why’s and how-comes of that would keep a therapist in business for years trying to untangle. Was it a lack of attention when I was a child or a sense of narcissistic egotism that makes me feel that my stories are so important they must be told? I don’t know. One thing I have learned is that sometimes, it doesn’t matter why, it simply is what it is.

I write because I want to share my stories.

Where I get the stories is something I don’t know. My mind just works that way, it creates even when I don’t try and create. It fabricates from things I see ideas of what could be or what might be hidden right behind plain view. It just happens. It is just who I am. There is no poetics to it, just a simple fact of me. It is just how my mind works

So the final answer would be, I write because that is what I do. The why of it doesn’t matter except to my therapist. I do it because that is who I am.

Though I do feel in a strange way that I should now stand up and say, “Hi, my name is David. I’m a writer.” And wait for the twelve step crowd to welcome me. . .

Who am I writing for?

That is the question that has been bothering me for the past few days. . . just who am I writing for?

This is a question that has gotten into my mind the past few days because at 25k into my novel  I am reading it and realizing I may or may not continue reading on from that part. I might not even make it that far. While the story is good, the dialog witty. . .I am writing for someone else.

So I am left wondering if maybe I just have not found my voice yet. Pounding out more writing will help with that but I am also left with a nagging feeling that I have been writing for someone else. It reminds of something Neil Gaiman said in his speech (Which is really awesome and worth watching)  “Make Good Art”: The only projects he regrets are the ones he did for a reason other than really wanting to do them. That he writes things he wants to write so even if they fail, he still has the fulfillment of having written what he wanted to write.

So I am looking over what I have written and am left wondering if I am writing for me or for some idea of what some unnamed reader might like and buy.

So, lesson of the day, write for me. Combining that with the lesson before I am not going to restart, but from this point forward it will be what I dig. I will go back and renovate the rest later, redo it all if I have to. But from this point forward in my book, it will be shit I dig and how I dig it and fix the rest when I get done.

Still Kicking

Fear

It is a powerful motivator. . . or should that be de-motivator? Fear of the inevitable rejection that is part of being a writer. It happens and will happen and you can’t stop it. It is part of the writing process, not everything you write will be gold. Sometimes the things you think are best no one else ‘gets’ so they are rejected. Sometimes the things you are really, really unsure of hit the spot and people like them.

In most things there are benchmarks that if you strive for them you’ll fall within acceptable parameters. Things can be measured and calculated so that your efforts have a good certainty of success if you follow those guides. Ys, writing does have some rules but even if you follow them, it might still suck. Even if it doesn’t suck it might fall outside current trends or needs. Even if you hit the right time with the right idea inside the guidelines. . . sometimes the current trend is to color outside the lines. All of that uncertainty creates. . .you guessed it. . .

Fear

Then there is another kind of fear. It is a lack of faith. Sometimes you look at words you wrote the day before and though you were sure they were rock solid then, now you are not so sure. You second guess, worry, and that restricts further words. Lack of faith in your words is a huge fear.

Fear.

The worst fear though. . .at least for me. . .is being irrelevant. What if my best words at the best time about the best ideas are just. . . .nothing? That is the biggest and worst boogey-man in my writing closet. Irrelevance.

So I sent off several short stories to editors yesterday. They were sitting here and I had done nothing with them for over a year. I tweaked them and read them and I am pretty dang confident they were really good. I was also pretty confident that I am tired of fear. So if they are accepted, hooray for me in getting published. If they are not I will submit them someplace else and keep writing.

I am done letting fear guide my hand.

Ya. . .some stuff will suck but even if it does I will learn from it and move on. I used to tell students that the first hundred round-house kicks will be bad, the next thousand will be better but in the end, by the time they hit black belt they will have thrown an average of 25,000 roundhouse kicks. . . they’ll finally be doing good kicks. By the time they hit 4th dan and are a master they will have thrown over 100k and finally, they will be doing really good. If they ever hit 9th dan grand master, then they will be perfect. But each failure teaches a lesson. A slight modification of technique and timing that teaches us but only if we allow ourselves to throw them knowing they might fail. It is that willingness to be imperfect in our efforts that will guide us to achieving success.

So I threw a few kicks yesterday. I’ll throw some more today.

Some might hit.

Some might miss.

In the end. . .its ok either way.

Because at least I am still kicking.

The Archer

A long time ago when I learned martial arts my master used to use stories to teach me lessons. Some people might see it as sappy but, I loved them. More than that though, I remembered the lessons that each story was about. Years later when I taught martial arts I also told my students these stories. Now I will say that I most likely did not get them exactly, word for word the same and may have added a wee bit of flourish and my own style to them. The lessons though stayed the same.

So the other night I was going through and sorting some old documents on my system and I came across the lesson of the archer. It is a detailed account of all the work it takes to make a bow and then the work to make each arrow and fletch it. The point of it is to emphasize the amount of preparation so it is wordy and long and I will not rewrite it here so you don’t fall asleep on me. After all that preparation in making the bow and the arrows it talks about the process of shooting an arrow, the allowing the breath to escape as you aim until you are fully calm and steady and then you loose the arrow.  Then you don’t sit there and watch it go because there is nothing you can do once it is fired. You grab another arrow and shoot that or the enemy army will just run up and then you are kind of screwed cause, you know, you got a bow and not a sword.

The point was to teach students that once they throw a kick or a punch in a competition to not focus on it. If the kick sucked, it’s ok. If the punch failed, don’t worry about it, move on. The time you spend fussing over the botched kick or punch is the time that you should be continuing the fight and the time the opponent will use to beat your ass because you aren’t paying attention.

Then it hit me. This lesson that I was taught over 30 years ago and I had memorized to such a point that I was able to bore many sets of students with its retelling over and over, was a lesson I never thought to put outside the context of martial arts and yet, it is the exact lesson I needed to hear.

Sometimes when I write I get caught up in my own wordiness and try and get a turn of phrase just right or a description just perfect on the first draft. I can get bogged down on it and it just stops my flow of thought. That section consumes my thoughts and getting it perfect becomes more important than getting it down on paper. I need to let it go. I need to let the words fly and then grab the next handful of them and toss em at the screen and keep writing. Editing and second drafts are the times to fuss over exactness. First drafts are the fight, the kicks and punches you just keep throwing and striving to make the next better than the last. You get it done and worry about the clean up later.

It is humbling to realize that the solution was in my head and I never stood back far enough to see how it fit into other aspects of my life. I’ve known what I needed to do for over 30 years and I swear I could hear my master’s voice saying “duh” when I finally figured it out.

I can be kinda slow that way sometimes.

The Stories In My Head

So. . . I ripped down my old website and decided to redo it new, different. . . trying to change things up. I did this partially because I was tired of the old but also because I have had an epiphany. . .one that was rather strange and oddly disturbing to me. It was, none the less, a good thing even if I kind of felt stupid afterwards.

This epiphany began after reading things by three people and each of them played a part in the understanding of one of my major failings as a writer. . . or rather. . . a wanna be writer. Even though I have put out books of erotica and I think they were good and people have enjoyed them and all, they were not what I really want to write. They were not what I really dream of writing.

I was told once a piece of advice from a very learned person that I should write, whatever and whenever I could. Find a job that paid me to write and it did not matter what I wrote as long as I was writing. It would improve my craft and help me develop my own style of writing. This was sage advice but I took that advice and ran in circles with it. I didn’t build a jumping off point to write what I dreamed instead I wrote the same thing, over and over. Not that erotica is not fun to write and it is kind of a sexual thrill to know that my dirty thoughts can inspire other people’s dirty thoughts . . . intellectual exhibitionism, flashing my mind at people. So I was paid by websites to write erotica and I just kept on doing that, short stories that titillated people.

In my mind though I kept writing great novels, science fiction, horror, crime. . .all kinds of genres. I would work an idea into a story, into a novel idea and even, at times, into a whole series of novel ideas. Then I’d write more erotica because, it was easier and the feedback was much faster. All the while I kept thinking to myself (and also telling others as well but only in such a way as to sound cool and very intellectual) that I had 5 novels written in my head. . . .8 novels. . . .16 novels all written in my head. It actually made me feel good to think that all I had to do was write them down and I’d be an instant hit.

Then I started reading the blog of Chuck Wendig who actually does have that many books out and more and a TV show coming and game credits and a blog that is totally awesome. When I read his blog I read it with the voice of the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket screaming at me for the most part because his blog and his writing books are all about the work of writing. About actually stopping whining and dreaming and shutting up and doing it. It inspired me to want to write my novels.

Then I began reading  a series of books by William Bernhardt, another person who is all about getting it done. As I read his Red Sneakers Writer series I began to realize, as much as I had ideas for novels in my mind and even snippets of scenes and an entire mental movie of what it was all about and cool scenes and wonderful sound bites of dialog in my head, I didn’t have any novels in there. I had ideas, concepts, and story lines but not novels. It is like having a big pile of boards, boxes of nails, and a hammer and thinking that means you have a house. I had pieces but they were just sitting there collecting dust. They were just raw materials and in no way the novels I had been telling myself and others that I had hidden in my mind. They were just pieces of stuff that could be better stuff but they weren’t because I never bothered assembling them. I never put the work in to them.

Then I happened to remember reading the book by Matt Paxton about hoarders. There is a kind of hoarder I call a Hallmark hoarder. They buy things with the thought of giving them to someone and they experience in their mind the emotional response of that act, just the idea of how happy the person will be with what they have gotten them makes them feel very good. Then, they can’t give it to the person. The reality of the person’s reaction might be less than the emotional feed they have already gotten by thinking about it so they can’t risk losing that feeling. Much like the Hallmark commercials every year where they show someone looking at some dancing Santa and imagining how everyone will laugh about seeing it. . . well that person is screwed cause more than likely people won’t respond that way so they will never share it and hide it away and just think about it and get that emotional high. Then the epiphany came to me. . .

I do that with my writing.

I hoard ideas.

I take the concepts and storylines for what be excellent books and I work on them in my head and then I lock them away. I hide them because the idea of how good the book will be. . .I got that emotional high. The reality might suck. Stories I can risk but the novels, the stuff that I really want to write, that stuff is scary as hell to let out. What if everyone hates it? What if it sucks? What if no one even notices it?

So I hoard my ideas in my head, I keep those raw materials hidden away. I hint at them and cover the highlights sometimes talking to people but, that is just the movie trailer. The work of writing that novel, the risk of writing that full story with all the connecting bits so that it is more than just an idea for a book but a full novel. . . that is scary, it is a risk.

So I hoard novels in my head. The same as any hoarder I resisted the fact, I justified, I deflected and I denied. I always had a reason not to do it. I always had a reason that the future was a better time. Time and time again I started and then distracted myself with writing some erotic bits that deflected me away from what I really dream of writing. Don’t get me wrong, like I said I do love writing erotica. But it is not my dream. So now, with the help of these three men I have never and most likely will never meet, I have forced myself to look in the mirror and see the truth. Now it is up to me and that is what this blog will be about. Some old stuff will pop up I am sure as I go along. But I have started on my first novel. It is going well so far but I have to periodically stop myself from diverting away from it. . . .I periodically have to replay the drill sergeant screaming at me “stop screwing around, bitching and moaning  and just write!”

Hi, my name is David. I’m a story hoarder. I am 14k words into my first novel and it is both wonderful and terrifying to put the words down. It is a risk to who I have viewed myself as but  I am going “to be” rather than “to dream”. I am going to be a writer.

Welcome to my blog.