Thursday, April 18, 2024

Short story – “I Just Write Stories”

“I Just Write Stories”

As a regular patron of the bookstore, Janet had often seen the fliers for the Pen Jockeys, the writing group that met every month in the store’s café.  She didn’t consider herself a writer, just a dabbler who wrote two or three short stories a year to post on her blog.  Several people – not just her friends – had said that she had talent and should write more.  After much debate, she decided to at least check out the writer group and see if she could learn anything from real writers.

In the café, two tables had been pushed together to make room for about a dozen people.  A sign in the middle of one proclaimed the tables reserved for the Pen Jockeys.  It was still about ten minutes until the meeting time, but two men and a woman already sat there.  They welcomed Janet and had her join them.

“I’m Brian,” the first man said.  “I write gay fantasy.”

The second man introduced himself as Doug.  He explained, “I write science fiction with strong libertarian underpinnings.”

“And I,” Samantha added, “write historical fiction with strong female characters.”

“It’s nice to meet you all,” Janet said.  “I … just write stories.”

The three looked confused.  “What kind of stories?” Doug asked.

Janet shrugged.  “Whatever comes to mind.”

“Do they have specific themes?” Brian asked.

“Um … no.  Just your basic run-of-the-mill stories.”

“What are you trying to achieve with them?” Samantha asked.

“Ah … they’re just fun.  I usually post them on my blog.” Janet looked around at them for a moment before asking, “Is that a problem?”

The three looked at one another.  “Well,” Doug began, “if you really want your writing to take off you need to write to a specific audience, be they gay, libertarian, feminist, what have you.”

“Oh,” Janet replied.  “Well, I’m just starting out, so I’m more interested in learning about writing, not the marketing aspects.”

“Writing is a business,” Brian stated.  “Too many people who want to be writers never learn that.”

Janet was quiet as she thought that over.

Samantha then asked, “You said you just write … for fun?”

“Yes.” Janet looked around.  “Don’t you?”

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Beating a weird, coincidence horse

I believe it was a sometime in the summer of 2001, a few weeks after I moved into my first apartment, my phone rang.  I answered it, and a guy says, “Hey Steve, it’s Tom.”

I didn’t know any Toms, so I asked, “Who?”

He replied, “Tom,” slightly angrily.

I took a moment and thought.  I had gone to school with a Tom, but I hadn’t spoken to him in a decade or so, and there was no way he could have gotten this number.  “Who?”

“Karen’s brother,” he almost shouted. 

I almost shouted back, “Who the fuck is Karen,” but I stopped myself and said I think he had the wrong number.  I think in the following months there was a message or two on my machine for the other Steve, so apparently our numbers were very close.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I put up a post asking “What’s the weirdest conversation you’ve had?” and I gave a condensed version of that story.  A few days after I did that, I came across an old blog post I had done that resulted from that incident.  Apparently, I was trying to come up with a very short story, and I came up with an idea:

The story was set in one of those dystopian futures where people have numbers instead of names, for example, A517 or A to his friends.  Well, A sits down to a “genuine, vat-grown steak” when his comm buzzes.  He answers and someone goes, “Hey A, it’s T.” A doesn’t know any Ts, so T explains he works with R at the clone factory.

A still doesn’t know who T is, so T in frustration asks, “This is A571, right?”

“No, I’m A517.”

“Oh.  I’m sorry.  I guess I have the wrong number.”

Now, I know the first draft – let alone the rough outline – of everything sucks, but I highly doubt any amount of editing could turn that into something … halfway good. 

I wrote that in my notebook, and then forgot about it.  Some years later, I was flipping through my notebook and saw it, and wrote up the blog where I was thinking about an author putting out a collection of their terrible stories, and what would be a good title for it.  And I wondered if how we react to our bad stories could be some sort of personality test for writers. 

So, the chain of events: I got a wrong number call.  A few years later, I use that as the base for a failed short story.  A few years after that, I come across this failed short story, and use it for the base of a blog post.  Many years after that, I use the original wrong number story for a social media post.  A week or so later, I come across that old blog post, and use the whole story for this new blog post.  At this point, I’m wondering what I’m going to do with this in five, or ten more years?  Maybe I will put together a collection of my terrible stories, and I’ll basically just copy this for the introduction.