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Archive for the ‘Novels’ Category

Show, Don’t Tell: The Difference between Life and Text

Posted by CW64 on August 24, 2012

Another major issue I encounter while editing manuscripts is the excess of descriptive and explanatory narratives that produce flatness in character and the world in which that character lives (and quite often involves redundancies in many forms). This annoys me more than impresses me, but I am always understanding and patient with beginning writers.

For one thing, ongoing explanations of text offend intelligent readers; such continuous tirades deprive readers the opportunity to use their own minds during the reading process. A story means nothing without the reader’s cognitive input, which includes interpretation and query-making among other things. As I state in an earlier post, writers are never to underestimate the intelligence of the readers; doing so drives away an audience that sums up the experience as nothing more than an aggravating slap-in-the-face.

The point: quality writers get on with the story and let the readers figure things out for themselves. The rule is to stick with the action, dialogue and minimal description, sharing casually the essential information necessary to facilitate the flow and flesh out character development to the point of promoting a sense of realism. This practice refers to the ever-mentioned notion of “showing,” and it isn’t always easy to do. With experience and reasoning, though, writers develop the skill quite naturally.

Let’s start with the two sentences below:

Frank moves slowly
Frank drags along like a slug in the mud

Which of these two describes the concept of moving slowly? If you don’t know the answer, chances are you haven’t done enough reading and writing.

The concept of “showing” is both a fuzzy and distinct one, and an understanding of said concept will help readers and writers discern why. This might sound like a contradiction, but it is not; “showing” in literature—any kind of literature, whether it be fiction or non-fiction—is extremely complex.

Firstly, the assertion of “fuzzy” refers to the idea that each person has her or his own idea what “showing” means and what it entails to be executed appropriately. A nice example lies in the above illustration. One person might say that the first line is simple and clear and therefore more appropriate than the second. Another would likely say that the second is longer, but it “fleshes out” out the concept in question and conveys more information about the character and what he is doing than what is merely stated. Finally, a third might concur that both, in fact, are showing the reader what is meant by “moving slowly” but in two different acceptable ways. In the end, however, the particular perspective to which one wants to adhere is dependent on that person’s ideals and style preferences.

Conversely, the idea that “showing” as distinct follows through the obvious: to convey imagery so that it “jumps” from the page and appeals to the reader’s senses. In this light, the imagery comes to life in vivid color, sound and motion so that it appears and feels real to the reader. Not everything written can do that. Do the two illustrations above satisfy the requirement necessary to consider them “showing”?

Let’s take a closer look…

Frank moves slowly

According to the first person mentioned above, this one is sweet and simple and therefore most adequate to convey the idea, which shouldn’t take extensive passages and countless adjectives and modifiers to express. This, indeed, makes perfect sense. The sentences contains three common words—a noun, a verb and an adverb. The noun tells who is performing the action, the verb clarifies what that action is and the adverb—the keyword necessary to establish the overall idea—describes how the action is carried out. What more is required? Nothing is, apparently; the entire idea is complete.

Still, the second person can jump in and say that this sentence, though simple and direct, is cliche and therefore not fresh or unique at all; the character and the action are both flat and contain no life beyond the three words used to write the sentence. From an artistic perspective, this point is extremely valid. The better writer stands out by not expressing ideas the same as any other; she/he captivates the reader’s attention and has a greater potential for achieving a larger and wider audience than the writer who employs the use of the first line. Creativity demands individuality and non-conformity, and that quite often means breaking away from conventions, no matter how common.

Frank drags along like a slug in the mud

This line, according to the second voice, consists of four extra words than the first line, so it isn’t really excessive in length. The action word “drags” and the simile “like a slug in the mud” together paint a vivid picture that appeals to the reader’s senses and emotions by allowing said reader to feel Frank’s slow movements. In addition, this line implies something regarding Frank’s personality, that he is, perhaps, a sloth by nature. Simply put: the sentence shows the reader who Frank is, at least in part, and therefore does more than just tell. The reader is much more likely to be drawn into characters that seem real than those whom the writer merely dictates in sprawling descriptions and explanation.

Another point to be made here is that although the first sentence is terse and direct, the fact that it expresses nothing more than the three words suggests that the writer will require longer passages to express the same amount of information that the second one does, so it isn’t really shorter in the end. By using a greater number of words in a single sentence, as in the second line, the writer conveys more about the character and her or his situation by using fewer words overall.

An example: a sunshiny day encapsulates the same information, impressions and characteristics as a day full of bright sunshine and warmth filled with smiles and laughter; everything mentioned in the longer version is implicit in the shorter one.

Then, of course, there is the third speaker, who takes a neutral stance and insists that both perspectives are equal yet different. In this view, individuality is still promoted, as both lines offer a unique form of expression compared to the other. As long as all of the points and/or premise are clear and the information discernible, the words shouldn’t matter.

This attitude makes sense as well and is worthy of consideration. After all, intelligibility and clarity are two major cornerstones of good, quality writing. Both lines are intelligible and clear in their delivery, so one form should not necessarily be superior to the other.

In the end, however, the writer needs to know her or his characters and their lives well in order to “show” them effectively. This fact is quite often associated with the context…

Showing in Context

Context makes a substantial difference when it comes to how, where and if a writer “shows” something. By this, a writer uses the means, if necessary, the appropriate elements to effectively bring something to life.

The case of a story on a World War II aviator requires imagery relevant to that particular scenario, such as the use of metaphors like “dust” and “shattered metal” and fireball” as opposed to, say, “rag doll” or “lollipop,” for instance. The words employed should hold some type of relevance to the subject matter at hand if the description is to be applicable and effective.

Take the following passage for instance:

Young James Claybourne heard the hellish squealing bursting through the crackling and the grinding of twisting metal. His heart slammed against his ribcage as he scanned the smoking windows. Vile fumes of cinders burned his nostrils.

“Where is it coming from?” he muttered, spitting ash to the cracked sidewalk. The grime on his skin felt sticky under his coat, but he pushed that out of his mind. “Wh-where?…”

Then she appeared suddenly, jutting her reddened face from the top floor. The building shook violently. The girl’s eyes flamed white in terror.

“Help me!”

James sprang forth amidst the crumbling walls and smothering heat from the eruptions around him. He held his helmet tightly with a glove while gripping an axe with the other. Water swelled in his eyes and his head spun and swayed like a loose light fixture, but he forced himself onward stair after stair after stair after stair. . .

Here, no explanations are given and descriptions are minimized and limited to relevant references. No mention of the particular situation is stated because it isn’t necessary for the reader to realize that the scene is about a burning building and that James is a fireman. The narrative stays on the action and keeps pace all the way through. The words and phrases used belong in this scenario and paint a vivid picture that appeals to all of the senses: “hellish squealing,” “bursting,” “crackling” and “grinding of twisting metal” (audio); “vile fumes burning his nostrils” (olfactory); “swelling water” and “spinning and swaying” (visual); “spitting ash” (taste) and “grime” and “sticky” (textural). The reader can sense what he is experiencing, and so he seems real as a result. Other words, like “redden face” and “flaming eyes of terror” not only describe how the girl feels, but also enhance the overall tone of the scene and contribute to the description of the fire and the sense of urgency prevailing. The “swaying like a loose light fixture” simile isn’t really necessary here (“spinning and swaying” would be enough), but its inclusion demonstrates the use of an appropriate reference that serves two purposes: (1) to illustrate James’ mental state, and (2) to offer a suggestive detail that sharpens the overall descriptive image of the shaking building that plays in the reader’s mind while reading.

Also: James’ actions say something about him: pushing discomfort out of his mind and springing onward into the firetrap to save the girl and forcing himself onward despite his dizziness all attest to the man’s persistence and dedication to helping others in need. This message comes through the actions, NOT any drawn out and tiresome explanation.

In Conclusion. . .

Whatever means of “showing” a writer employs, the objective is to bring the characters and their situation to life so they can interact with the reader. As said, a story’s value is nothing without the reader’s reception and interpretation of said story’s contents. Publishers know this all too well, which is why their evaluations revolve around how riveting a story is. If readers are drawn into a story/book/novel, it will surely sell. The “show” aspect, or the degree of vividness and/or realism a story projects, often makes a difference between high-quality and substandard quality writing, and it ultimately determines failure or success.

Posted in Editing, Fiction, General Commentaries, Novels, Publishing and Publication, Reality and Realism, Short Stories, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | 2 Comments »

Research and Influence #1b: Echoes from the Past: Urban Legends Brought to Life

Posted by CW64 on January 19, 2011

Urban Legends: Real or Unreal?

Urban legends, such as those created and maintained through stories of Lambertville High School, are always assumed to be just that, with no basis of reality, at least not in the major sense with all of the ghost stories prevalent throughout history and the various cultures of the world; most of these stories are believed to be figments of the imagination or tales conjured up through pranksters or hearsay or those weird inexplicable phenomena witnessed by people who find no logical source but that are, again, assumed to have a rational explanation.

Still, with all of the accounts that continue to emerge and be passed along throughout time and space by people from all walks of life—those of imaginative capacity and those who are “respectably level-headed,” as the learned and prominent in society—not all urban legends can all be untrue or non-factual, can they? What if some of these urban legends were based on some actual truth in reality? After all, many encounters have been investigated and still remain unexplained. Some even have scores of witnesses.

Such a case would be Columbine High School. The dreadful event took place on 20 April, 1999, almost eleven years ago. Two disturbed high school students burst into the school library and murdered several students in cold blood. Some bodies were even tossed out the windows for terrified onlookers to see. No one ever believed that such a situation could happen, until it did—more than once.

Virginia Tech, even more recently (17 April, 2007), echoed that long-ago scenario, and it occurred in another part of the country (the former in Colorado; the latter in Virginia, farther east). A troubled Asian student burst into a hall while classes were in session and open fired, killing many, this time including instructors.

Both events and others like them have left lingering nightmares in the minds of those who witnessed them or knew those involved—effects that will likely last a lifetime. The country, as a nation, will never forget these horrible scenes and the lives lost. Such indelible impressions have shaken a nation and scarred its conscious so deeply that no one will escape the damage incurred.

As far as haunts go, however, Columbine has already begun manifesting the paranormal residue of its own story based in reality. Accounts reported by both students and teachers attest to feelings of being watched, oppressing pain and apprehension, voices and screaming throughout the school (but especially near the library), orbs and even sightings of mysterious figures. Could this be a result of so many minds still under siege by a persistently lingering nightmare that many are unable to forget? That is entirely possible. Yet, how can one explain the uncanny similarities between accounts, especially with regards to students now attending the school who were too young to remember the actual event of eleven years ago? To those who have experienced these phenomena, the series of variable manifestations are certainly unwaveringly real.

Obsession or Destiny Fulfilled?

The protagonist of my novel, Hallowed Halls, encounters similar manifestations. Nothing so unusual about that, only that he is drawn by forces beyond his control to pursue them in a dire need to uncover answers and is uncertain as to what he might find, even as he is succumbed into what he senses as real. This is subjective, of course, until others from his clan, without knowing anything about his situation, become involved and experience the same overwhelming manifestations that purposefully interact with them as well.

This is a case exploring what it would be like if such urban legends were actually true or based on some fact. My protagonist (and later his comrades) conduct research on the haunted place and discover the horrible event that happened there so many years before, so long ago that it has been left forgotten, except by those who were there and have managed to survive. The answers reveal a story that is surprisingly not as much science fiction, fantasy or as supernatural as human. THIS is enough to weigh upon the heart and mind because it involves actual people. It is such a sad ordeal that no one can or would want ignore it. An obsession turns into a need to help others who are lost, and that attempt, the protagonist learns over time, is his destiny, whether he is ready for it or not.

Both Lambertville High School and Columbine play a part in this story’s development, mainly because these are real-life places with real-life stories. Although the legends of the first example are unproven and are assumed by lingering manifestations continually permeating the place eerily destroyed but still standing, the latter has a confirmed account that correlates to the phenomena experienced by those there.

Another chilling point testified by Columbine is the fact that such a possibility of an in-school massacre is, in fact, true, since it actually happened. Such a scenario, though one that no one wishes to imagine, is indeed not beyond the realm of feasibility. As ugly and as tormenting and as disconcerting as it is, such an occurrence forces us to keep an open-mind and never underestimate what is possible and what is not, and never to assume anything is considered too farfetched to be conceived or believed. The protagonist of Hallowed Halls learns this lesson all too well, as do all of those around him, including those who have died.

Another aspect that correlates between Lambertville and Hallowed Halls is the echoes that ring over time through several means to grip the minds of those in the present. Such signals take the form of visual manifestation, such as the mysterious artwork of students on the blackboard and other various images throughout the site to sounds vibrating in the inner conscious, such as calling voices and laughter of those from an earlier time to even the deeply embedded feelings of presences sensed. These are common, true, but they are nonetheless profound on those who experience them, whether young explores at the Lambertville ruins, attendees at Columbine or the protagonist in Hallowed Halls, who encounters is own array of inexplicable visuals and sounds directed specifically at him. They all share similar experiences that draw and tie them to the past where they learn more about their surroundings and themselves. This is the true nature of any haunting, and though it is skeptically contested by many, it is an experience prevalently shared by an even greater number of people than those who deny it. There is no concrete evidence to substantiate any of this, of course, but, then again, those who have experienced such phenomena do not need evidence—their own sensations and how they are affected by said phenomena are absolutely real enough. Perhaps that’s all that is necessary to create impressionable meaning in the human mind.

This is what gives the story of the novel its strength, persistence and solidity, as well as the assurance that so many people will be able to relate to it over time. This is an urban legend that is all too human, just as the readers are; the human factor is what makes the story as real to the reader as the ghostly experience does to the individual. If this is the case, as apparently it is, the story is well-justified, as it achieves its intended purpose.

Lessons on Writing

As writers, we all learn more about writing by actually writing. It’s not too out-of-line to say, then, that each writing project we complete as writers teaches us lessons on writing while simultaneously improving our skill in writing. The two, therefore, go hand-in-hand.

What have I learned about writing through Hallowed Halls?

First: that the characters themselves create the story, just by being the entities they are. If the writer knows and is confident in her/his characters, the story will flow out and write itself. Yes, I already knew this, but this experience has reminded me that such a notion is not merely an ideal, but indeed a truth in creative writing. The Characters are everything; they are the essence of the story. If a writer underestimates them, s/he is wasting time with the story. First thing a writer needs to do—regardless—is to get to know the characters. Before I even started writing on the story itself, I delineated pages upon pages of life story for each of the characters. That took hours, days, even weeks, but it was necessary, and by the time I was done, I knew exactly what the story would be from beginning to end. Yes, some details fluctuated, but the essence of the entire story was already there and out, so I felt confident when I started on the actual novel. All this came to be because I knew my characters well beforehand.

“But if it isn’t going into the novel, why waste your time writing it out?” Many of you might say.

The answer: It doesn’t matter. Not all of the details of a character’s background should go into the body of the novel. The important thing is that you, the writer, must know your characters well enough to write about them.

A fine example would be that which lies in a different field of writing—journalism. One does research on a given subject to familiarize oneself with the subject so that one can write about it, even if much of the information obtained remains unenclosed in the final product. The writer gains an in-depth understanding regarding the overall nature of the subject so that s/he can write about it confidently without the need to include everything.

A writer isn’t wasting time by developing character backgrounds. The principle described above applies to creative writing and the characters one creates. Writers need to know their characters, how they think and feel and what makes them tick, how they relate to others and what motivates them, their families, their childhood friends, their enemies, their issues and pathologies (we all have these). In doing this, the writer IS writing the novel because all of this serves as the basis for the story upon which the novel is founded.

Another important point I accomplished through writing Hallowed Halls relates to foreshadowing. This not only alludes to future developments in the novel’s story, it also ties together the many elements of the plot so that everything is unified. This is done through the employment of metaphors and similes, setting, dialogue, structure, even font. As I mentioned in earlier posts on this blog, modifiers are of the essence. Nouns themselves can and do serve as modifiers for themselves. If such elements are used correctly and innovatively, foreshadowing will be effective.

One should keep in mind, though, that the most efficacious foreshadowing is, believe it or not, the most subtle. Nothing destroys a storyline like foreshadowing that SCREAMS what will be to come. Never underestimate the intelligence of the reader; if they are paying attention, readers will pick them up quicker and easier than the “in-your-face” references, probably because the former are naturally and casually presented, as they are in life, and are therefore more profound.

An instance of the subtle foreshadow would be a conversation between two characters who are joking. An off-the-cuff slur is made that will come into play later on. Do NOT elaborate or explain this right then and there, as the foreshadow will lose its power and so the story will lose its strength. A writer should simply make the slur and move on. Unnecessary explanations and descriptions are not only redundant (please see post on “redundancies”), but also interferes with the flow of the story and bloats the content.

The overall irony about composing a novel is that despite all of the writing that goes into character developments, minimal referencing will make the final product.

A conscientious writer should never underestimate the power of a single word, as long as it is the RIGHT word.

As for Hallowed Halls, this is only the beginning; more writing development and lessons to learn will come with the revisions. That’s where the REAL writing takes place.

I am looking forward to it . . . .

Posted in Fiction, General Commentaries, Novels, Personal Experiences, Reality and Realism, Writing Development Issues, Writing Topics | Leave a Comment »

Research and Influence #1: Echoes from the Past

Posted by CW64 on September 1, 2010

This is the first of many musings discussing research and how such influences have shaped and driven my works. Perhaps some of this insight will inspire other writers the same way such insight has inspired me.

Also, I must maintain an unbiased perspective, to consider all alternatives, ideas and other possible notions regardless of my personal views or beliefs, in order to develop intriguing, balanced, credible and realistic accounts. Ironically enough, opposing arguments contribute to the premise of my novel and other works as much as supporting arguments do.

In the end, I try not to over-think these points, but to remain laid-back about the whole thing. The well-developed and naturally flowing stories emerge easier that way.

Echoes from the Past

Recently, I found myself becoming absorbed in one intriguing find that serves as a major influence for a novel I am writing, not only because the site correlates in ambiance with a major setting in the story, but also because it speaks to me with distant voices reminiscent to the voices that speak to my story’s protagonist. These voices echo from the past, like those of some resonating entity penetrating me with such a force that pulls me to the site. Everything this place represents is covered in mystique that has captured my imagination.

‘What place is this?’ you may ask.

This is a place known as Lambertville. No, it’s not an abandoned military base or some obscure American Civil War battlefield—it is, of all places, an old high school.

Lambertville High School, in western New Jersey, has a long history filled with more than just a few inexplicable if not interesting stories. A once-lively place consisting of a small building and a bell tower, the school is now a decrepit hulk, resting under a veil of trees on a hill overlooking New Hope, Pennsylvania. The roof and third floor are gone, and the interior is a cold darkness screaming with a sense of foreboding.

This place has come to be what I consider the ‘Titanic’ of abandoned high schools, and for good reason—the mysteries behind this place are more than just imaginary.

A Legend Built on Mysteries . . .

According to a tribute stone erected at the site, the school was built in 1854—before the Civil War. That means Lambertville was open for classes during a time prior to that long-ago war serving as but a distant memory to us today. That’s how antiquated the school is. The stone rests in the ground near the center of the western wall, situated so that it may watch the sun set every day. Painted graffiti scrawled across its face reflects the vandalism it has endured over the years, but the stone refuses to falter. Truly inspirational and extraordinary indeed!

This is but the first mystery. The tribute was erected by the class of 1927, after a fire gutted most of the school back in the early-1920s (the date carved into the brick over both doors—‘1924’—provides some indication as to the time period). The fury that consumed Lambertville came about as a result of unknown causes, though some enthusiasts believe the culprit to have been a boiler explosion (common in many stories regarding school fires). The tribute is reminiscent of a tombstone, and what makes it eerie is that that representation was apparently intended.

The story goes that this fire took the lives of 150 students and some staff and that the stone is in memory of them. Other indications related to these deaths resonate here as well: the disturbing chalkboard drawings that depict praying and burning students, voices and laughter on the top level, steady footsteps, and messages scribbled along the walls here and there that allude to some horrible tragedy long ago . . .

Still, city officials, graduates of the high school (from the 1950s) and others who have studied the background of the place have attested that such an event never occurred, that the deaths are all hearsay and fiction created by someone’s imagination. Supposedly, the fire was at night when the school was empty, despite the inference through historical references that students used to live on the upper level during the school’s early years. When did this arrangement change? I don’t dispute any of this; these sources serve as more knowledgeable and reputable authorities on the subject than I, but I am curious.

I have to ask, though: Who would conceive such stories and why? Every story has a basis of reality somewhere. Whatever that reality is, this mystery has grabbed the attention of so many people, many of whom have visited the school from all over the United States. They have taken pictures as if the place were some vacation spot, and then subsequently posted those images on their own respective websites. Hell, the school even has a page on Wikipedia. No other abandoned high school can make that claim.

So I ask again: Who would conceive such stories and why?

The chalkboard theory, which leads into another mystery, seems to have been true; the website alluded to above actually features images of students drawn in elaborate detail.

Yet there are simple explanations behind this one. One woman who claimed to have graduated back in 1954 said in one personal account that she had known the art teacher who drew them on the boards before leaving the school. She never explained why the teacher had done or would do this, and I find it doubtful that a teacher would do such a thing. Also, even if a teacher from the 1950s created these images, it’s doubtful that said images would have lasted so long without fading, being erased, or marred in some way (though there are methods to freeze chalk on a blackboard) with vandals racing through the place on a regular basis. Furthermore, the photographer might simply have followed some artist thrill-seeker who had drawn the images on the boards to generate excitement. If this is what happened, apparently, this person succeeded.

Alas, all the chalkboards are gone now, likely absconded by souvenir-hunters who wish to hang them in their basements or perhaps sell them on eBay. Needless to say, the place is a smorgasbord; everyone is going there to get what s/he can before the building finally collapses. It’s not like the owner is protective of such items; if s/he wanted anything in there, s/he would have had it removed and stored away long ago. Before long, nothing will be left except the shell itself—and maybe the ghosts, if there are any.

As for ghosts, or spirits, there are other stories as well. Take, for example, the case of Buckeye Bill, probably the most famous mystery associated with Lambertville. This entity and the story on which he is based have become a unified legend.

The year was 1935: Lambertville and New Hope high schools engaged in their famous football game. During the game, one of the New Hope Buckeye quarterbacks caught the ball. A pile-up ended his attempt to make a touchdown. When the players rose, everyone was horrified to see that the quarterback was dead, with a broken neck. Even more grisly is the claim that the player’s head was twisted 180 degrees (his face was over his back). The parents of the New Hope student body subsequently insisted that the school no longer sponsor football. To this day, New Hope High School does not have a football team. This entire story is supposedly documented and true, although it doesn’t serve as evidence to substantiate the paranormal stories that were to follow.

As the legend goes, if one stands on the front landing to the main floor of the west wing and challenges Billy with “Billy, I challenge you to a game of football!” a football is said to fly from within the darkness and slam into the challenger’s face, breaking her/his neck. Another variation of this legend assumes that if one stands on the old football field (which lies up the hill, if anyone can ever find it) and cries “Billy, I challenge you to a race!” a breeze sweeps overhead and/or a pair of red eyes appears and a deep voice growls “run to the other end of the field or die!” If the challenger doesn’t run or runs and doesn’t make it to the other side, s/he dies.

This second variation derives from a questionable event that also occurred back in 1935 immediately following the game that had claimed the life of Buckeye Billy. Allegedly, five boys were on the football field. One jokingly challenged Billy. A pair of eyes appeared and said “run or die!” The boys jumped, startled, and four ran while the fifth didn’t. Three made it across the field, but the fourth stumbled and could not be found. The next day, the authorities found the last two boys at the field. They were dead and their heads were turned 180 degrees. The story is supposedly true, yet it was passed along as hearsay, perhaps by someone who might have wanted to scare his friends. Teenagers can be and frequently are this way. I am not saying the story is a fiction; only that it could be, so there is a reasonable doubt. I therefore am not one to assert a case of reality here.

By the way, this is the story around which the movie Only Go There at Night revolves. Five friends go on a thrill adventure to a supposedly haunted high school in New Jersey where two get killed and, upon investigation, the police come to realize that the killer might not be a living human being (i.e. a spirit, presumably based on Buckeye Billy). The simple difference here, however, is that the five boys live in present-day, not seventy-five years ago. I haven’t yet seen the movie, but the fact that these boys are going to a supposedly ‘haunted’ high school suggests that a significant amount of time has past since the school was in use for classes. The premise here seems to consider, among other things: What if the legends WERE true?

Let’s also keep in mind that several thrill-seekers have gone to the school at night and have challenged Buckeye Billy according to version #1 (the stair landing scenario) and nothing happened. Does Billy choose when to come out? Could something else explain why nothing happened? I don’t mean to mock this, because I do believe in spirits and a spirit realm, but if nothing happened, the story would be difficult to believe and/or accept. That’s not saying that there isn’t some aspect of reality on which the legend is based. After all, as said, every story has its origins in some basis of reality.

Still, how could a story like this be true? What could have possibly caused this? Why would Billy have red eyes and threaten the lives of those who ‘challenge’ him? And at a high school he didn’t even attend? The story seems farfetched, but that’s only because we don’t know the account on which it’s based, the story that inspired it, and there likely was one. What was it? Was it the experience the five boys had in 1935?

If these stories and legends are not true, where did they originate?

Yet, another fire broke out soon afterward, but the exact year is not known. This event resulted in no deaths or injuries, but significant damage still incurred and repairs initiated. Apparently, Lambertville was developing a pattern of attracting fire.

The school finally closed its doors somewhere between 1954 and 1959 (sources conflict on the date). The closing had nothing to do with the fire as commonly believed, but to zoning issues and the need for city expansion. The Lambertville community had outgrown it and the area consolidated all students into the larger South Hunterdon High School, which is still in operation today. Not only does this new structure easily house all the students in one place, but a single school cuts down on city expenses and minimizes taxes involved. The old high school was disregarded at that point, but it was not razed.

Also of special note is the strange fact that the school closed one century, perhaps to the year, from the time it was constructed and opened. The second fire occurred around this time, but, as said, the specific year is not known.

After sitting empty in excess of ten years, Lambertville High School reopened for business—literally. During the 1970s, a private machine press company occupied the basement and changed the area into workspace (the equipment is still there, though not operational) while families rented the upper level and had the total run of the building. It’s admirable that the high school, instead of being destroyed, took on the role of a shelter for homeless families who might have even worked downstairs. How convenient and surreal, considering the structure’s earlier past.

When the last fire broke out around 1992, the city decided not to rebuild. The families disappeared and the business apparently moved on without taking its machinery. That’s odd, isn’t it? I say that because the last fire supposedly destroyed only the upper floors, not the main floor or the basement (had the fire consumed those lower levels as well, nothing would have remained there; they would now be in the same condition as that of the upper floor), so there was no reason to leave this equipment.

The chaotic state which resulted from this final conflagration is the same in which the building is today, except that over the years the second floor collapsed in on the main floor in some areas, especially the east wing, which is essentially nothing more than four walls enclosing a great heap of rubble, although some classrooms and offices on the main floor there are still accessible. The upper-floor corridor in the central hub has caved in, exposing the hallway beneath to open air. Trees have sprouted in a rough terrain of dirt and grown throughout these upper levels, creating the appearance of some ancient ruins. Cracked doors are suspended or lie askew. Window panes are shattered and their frames wrenched or obliterated. The west wing windows are blown out and nothing more than a row of six large square holes. Rusted pipes twist around like weird sculptures. Sections of walls still stand amidst piles of scrap consisting of timber and bricks. Plaster, which was at one time shiny white and pristine, is now chipped or completely stripped away. Sooty tiles are among what little remains of the showers for a non-existent gymnasium. A few scorched girders dangle precariously around a chimney that, once stately, shoots up in the air like some aged sentinel attempting to continue standing guard over its charge.

When one realizes that this is a century-and-a-half-old high school with a unique and legendary background, not something typical of the inner-city ghetto, the feeling becomes quite surreal and sobering, indigenous to a history struggling to maintain itself, but in some morphed, dreamlike manner. The sight is unbelievable, but it’s real, though many people question whether or not some deeper aspects of it are a part of the physical world or something else only sensed.

This is possibly the ultimate mystery. We know how the devastation occurred, yet we have no evidence that the fire had a particular source, like a flame out of thin air, just as the previous fires. The effect on the mind when one views the chaos reflects on the mystique of deeper meaning resonating there, whatever that meaning may be. Amidst all of this incredible destruction, Lambertville High School continues to live on.

Final Thoughts . . .

Lambertville High School is indeed a spell attraction. Even I have found myself pondering about this place, although I wonder from time to time why. After all, it is only an abandoned building, dilapidated and crumbling; an empty shell that people who have attended it have claimed is or was nothing more than a regular high school.

Or, again, is it something more?

This place has not become a legend for nothing. Several high schools in the United States have ghost stories connected to them, yet THIS one inspired a movie, a plethora of websites and a wiki page. As said, droves of people from all over the United States have traveled to see and explore the site. As a matter of fact, some have scheduled vacations to the place, as if this abandoned building were an attraction that cannot be missed, like the haunted house at Disney World.

This, I guess, is the final mystery, the great irony.

Perhaps that is because THIS high school is real, actual, not fabricated or imaginary. That fact alone is more than enough to create a spell on the human mind. The paranormal legends associated with it make it even more magical, regardless of whether or not such phenomena are true or real. That is why visiting the school allows one to become a part of that legend, a part of the reality.

The mysteries of Lambertville are likely never to be resolved, and that’s fine. The longer the mysteries endure, the legends will as well; as long as these legends persist, Lambertville will never die.

Lambertville High School, as said, serves as one of the main inspirations for my novel Hallowed Halls, which is another story reflecting the possibilities of spiritual haunting and what it would be like if such haunts were real. Again, I believe in a spiritual realm, as I have had encountered some profound experiences. There is something to it, and I am thoroughly compelled to explore that conceptualization in light of human nature and how we’re driven to learn about the forces within and around us through life and death, just as the case is with Lambertville.

In the follow-up, I will discuss more about how Lambertville and another growing legend of death, based on truth—Columbine in Littleton, Colorado—relate to the novel with regard to similarities, differences, parallels and background development.

Those who are curious to know more please stay tuned . . . .
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I wish to thank Lostdestinations.com, Surrealnewjersey.com, WeirdNJ.com, The Goop blog and Randy Kline (a.k.a. StangGT), whose Lambertville High School photo-stream can be found at Flickr.com, for providing their photos. Great pictures, guys! Anyone interested in reading up on or seeing more images of Lambertville High School please feel free to visit their sites as well as those listed below . . .

Lambertville High School:

Buckstore
Experience Project: Get the Paranormal Report
Forgotten USA
Hub Pages: Haunted Places – Lambertville, New Jersey
Lost in New Jersey
Spectral Review: Lambertville High School
STU of Doom
The Lambertville High School Story

Other [Haunted] High School Stories:

Forgotten Ohio
Forgetten Ohio – Stivers Middle School
Ghost Village
Newsweek.com – Ghosts of Columbine High Schools
OMA Haunted.com – Columbine High School
Snopes.com – Discussion on Columbine
StrangUSA – Discussion on Columbine
Unexplainable.net – Article on Columbine
Unexplainable.net – Haunted High Schools in the United States – Columbine
Your Ghost Stories – Real Ghost Story – Columbine

Reminder: I do believe in spirits, but that doesn’t mean that I automatically believe these stories; I am fair and skeptical about everything without evidence, which is why I ask questions. I included ghost and haunt sites to show how prevalent in number these sources are with regard to Stivers Middle/High School, Lambertville High School, Columbine High School and others. That’s how one conducts ongoing research—by asking questions and following through with leads to form her/his own conclusions. I encourage everyone to do the same

Posted in Fiction, General Commentaries, Historical Accounts, Movies and TV shows, Novels, Personal Experiences, Reality and Realism, Research, Writing Development Issues | 2 Comments »

The Many Adventures of Creative Writing

Posted by CW64 on March 3, 2010

The process of creative writing from start to finish is just as endlessly adventurous as it is intellectually draining—from the conception of a basic idea to delineating the draft to revising that draft to the point of having developed a completed manuscript.

No one said any of it would be easy, but, then again, the uncertainty and challenge of hard work make the entire process exciting and irresistible.

The basic idea, which is the seed to any writing project, is both easy or difficult, depending on several factors, including the purpose of the writing to be produced. Sometimes a great idea comes in a flash and other times it requires a bit of mulling, especially when one is attempting to take a twist on a subject (the”twist” itself is a legitimate idea in its own right because it prompts readers to think differently about a given subject AND because a “twist” can offer new information on said subject). In the case of the latter, a thorough understanding of subject is prerequisite to writing so that the twist, or unique angle, is fully realized and makes sense in light of the subject (i.e. is consistent with all known facts associated with said subject). This is where research is sometimes necessary to form the basic idea of a work, such as the case with dissertations, where the central point quite often emerges through the accumulation and evaluation of data.

See how complicated, or difficult, devising a basic idea can sometimes be?

The short story Urban Legend, which deals with a young skeptic who explores an urban legend and encounters a few surprises, the basic idea came to me in a dream. When I woke up from that dream, the images and premise of the story were still fresh in my mind, and I dictated the story, word-for-word, mentally as I recounted the dream. That motivated me to write, so I could get down the idea and start on the draft from beginning to end, which, in this case, came and went quick and smooth.

The draft isn’t always that easy to do, but when the basic idea is there, and is fully realized, it can be. In the case when it is not, however, sometimes the basic idea emerges through the writing process in establishing the principle characters and the plot. That was the case with the novel The Monkey Cage, which also served as my graduate thesis (the first three chapters). I started with a simple scene that I originally intended as the beginning of a short story, but as I developed the characters and expanded the story beyond the scene in question, I found a whole new world opening wide around the characters. But what are they doing here? What should they be doing? As I disregarded the need to set down a predetermined premise, I threw caution in the wind and just started writing. The plot and conflicts of the characters came on their own, and one stage led to another from beginning to the end of the first draft.

Yes, I said the first draft!

Sometimes stories require more than one draft, especially when details of the original draft do not work in the overall story, such as inconsistencies in character behavior or farfetched scenarios that sound good at first but, upon reflection, work poorly in bringing the story out in its most serious and respectable light. That happens. When it does, a writer has no other recourse but to start over. The fact that characters have been realized, however, makes story development easier due to a writer’s familiarity with said characters—a sense of familiarity increases a writer’s confidence, and confidence means everything in story development.

An important note should be made here: If a writer does not feel comfortable enough to write about her or his characters, s/he should spend time getting to know those characters first, either by ruminating over them, composing character profiles or sketches, drawing illustrations of their character, or a combination of any or all of these suggestions. When a writer knows her or his characters intimately and feels comfortable with and confidence in them, the story begins.

Once that story is down (i.e. the draft), revising starts. This is where it really gets fun!

Although a draft is down and a basic plot-line established, the creative process is far from over. Revisions not only correct misspellings and grammatical errors or provide condensation where necessary, but also serve as a means for writers to introduce new and essential information into the plot-line where necessary in order to “flesh out” the characters and/or story. This is important for two reasons: (1) the narrative will flow more smoothly, and (2) gaps are filled so the story will be clear and make sense. This is where one pays particular attention to detail, which had been foregone when scaling the draft (the basic idea) in the previous stage.

Revisions are quite often require various stages; creativity goes on and on. That is why revising is synonymous with the actual writing, because it is here that the characters emerge and the story is fully realized. The stage of revising is a long and tedious process spanning hours, days, sometimes even weeks on a particular work. But a writer shouldn’t be discouraged; s/he should have fun exploring the creative possibilities.

I can certainly elaborate more on revisions here, as insight on that subject abounds, but I thought I would reserve further discussion for a separate post designated specifically to that particular phenomenon, as that seems apropos.

More on revisions and writing development to come . . . .

Posted in Advice, Editing, Fiction, General Commentaries, Marketing and Advertising, Novels, Personal Experiences, Publishing and Publication, Research, Short Stories, Writing Development Issues | Leave a Comment »

My Professional Forties Part I: Graduate School . . .

Posted by CW64 on December 23, 2009

My forties marked my time in graduate school and an advance in my professional career as a writer, editor and translator. Interestingly, it transformed me into more of a family man as well.

The two wouldn’t be exclusive to one another.

During the summer of 2000, I entered an MAT at a major university in Detroit. This was, in my opinion, an exceptional graduate program, and I looked forward to getting started. The MAT (Masters of Art in Teaching) balanced education with foreign languages and computer technology, so I knew I would become more well-rounded. The field training portion was year long, too, instead of only a single semester, so that was another plus. All in all, I was on my way to obtaining my teaching certification and my Masters at one time, which is what I had wanted in the first place .

That doesn’t mean that I had given up on my writing—not by a long shot. No, but teaching would have allowed me to get a job and survive (Yes, I realized even then that earning a living while writing, though possible, was difficult to reach and usually takes years, and I’d turn out to be right). I figured I’d write and teach at the same time. This was a simple, if not commonly sought, objective, and I knew it wouldn’t take as long.

As far as writing goes, this route would also provide plenty of unique experiences about which I could write. I liked exchanging knowledge and insight, so teaching would be ideal and rewarding.

It wasn’t until a year-and-a-half later, when I was in my first semester of field training, that I had a turning point, and I got right back on track. I was an assistant at a middle school with extremely energetic students (what middle school student isn’t energetic?). The teacher seemed open, but, being a bit older and set into her routine, she was irritated with any deviation or innovation on my part. Because of that, she and I never formed a professional relationship. Her evaluation of me, I knew, wouldn’t be totally positive. My supervisor, who was very easygoing and turned out to be a great listener, sensed from my writing that I placed myself as a writer before teacher, which had always been the case. We talked. He told me that teachers must be dedicated enough to make that their priority. “You would be a great college teacher,” he said, “but you are a writer and should be in the English department. That didn’t take much thought. After spending time in the teaching program, I had been thinking to myself “What the hell am I doing here?” but only then did I listen to that voice gnawing away inside of me. Then it made perfect sense. I was overcome with a wave of excitement and anticipation. I knew I had to be a writer, employment difficulties or not!

I was on my way once again. Now I could focus solely on my writing. Not only would I develop my skills, but I would meet other writers, expand my network and, perhaps, even discover the range of employment possibilities available and how and where to find them.

The joy of writing and gaining inspiration from others had always been my utmost priority (under eating and paying my bills, however; without these two, I wouldn’t be in a position to write).

The year was 2002, and I had already integrated myself into the writing community online, which is where I enhanced my translation skills as a moderator for a Spanish-oriented site. I had been chosen selectively by the webmaster who had seen me interact fluently in Spanish at another site and was impressed. I had also served as a moderator at a music site, so I was familiar with Internet forums. I looked forward to it, not only to strengthen myself as a leader, but also hone my skills and gain experience as a translator on active duty. That prepared me for what was to come: become a founding editor for a new literary journal and the chief entertainment editor for an international publication based in Estonia, both of which would be instrumental in establishing me as an editor and copy-editor and provide with the insight and objectivity to edit my own work effectively, which I knew was necessary in order for me to be an effective and successful writer. And this all started as I was easing myself into the English department at the university. My education and experience were proceeding in sync. That was the way I liked and wanted it. I felt ready for the transition.

My Creative Writing professor was well-established and constantly offered very thoughtful insight. So did several of the other graduate students, many of whom I got to know quite well, some of whom had been writing for years. Interestingly, I learned from reading their works as well; the variety of styles and insights led me to try different things, including the use of Onomatopoeia in unusual ways for creating sound dynamics, the effectiveness to writing with a minimum of descriptive modifiers, condensation and organization, and realism in dialogue. The latter had always been a strength of mine, as I have always listened to how people talk. That really brings out character distinction. Chris, my professor, who had taught at more than one ivy league university, including Harvard and Bennington, always encouraged me without deception, always made me feel special. With him, I established a friendship rather immediately. He has been a major driving force in my life as a person, mentor and writer, and he always will be.

He and our class would routinely go out and eat after class each night. Our ongoing bull sessions were happy and exhilarating, and I always looked forward to them, not only for the chance to explore a flow of ongoing ideas about writing and wonderful and engaging personal experiences, but also for the chance to socialize; this was a great way of networking, and so I never passed it up, even when I was exhausted.

“You never cease to amaze me,” awed Chris in overhearing the conversation I was having with another student regarding music theory one night. “I learn something new about you all the time. You are a virtual encyclopedia of Classic 60s Rock music.” When I subsequently told him about my experiences during the late-60s/early-70s hippie generation (see the first two posts of this series), he shook his head, excitedly enthusiastic, and said, “Why aren’t you writing this stuff down?” My response to this, in part, would be the short story Born to Be Wild, which I have already mentioned and described in this blog.

Under him, I have written and shaped other works, including the novel The Monkey Cage, the first three chapters of which would serve as my thesis. This story deals with a teen in the 1980s who spends time coming to terms with the suicide of his girlfriend—an incident he had witnessed—and is set in the teen ward of a state mental facility. Chris pushed it, saying it was brilliant—vivid, realistic, engrossing. I would continue working on this with pride and joy.

By the way, he hadn’t said that about everything I had written; some efforts he had found questionable, especially those works I had spewed out on the spur of the moment to meet a tight class deadline. That showed me that the more one develops a piece before presenting it (revisions! revisions! revisions!),  the better chance that work has for a positive reception. That is why revisions are important and why revisions are the essence of writing.

During this time, too, I honed other stories that were of a ghostly nature, influenced by paranormal encounters I had had when I was younger. Bond Beyond the Grave, revolving around a World War II mystery, and the tentatively titled  The Mystery of Alahantaga Island, about a decades- old massacre on a remote island, came into fruition and inspired by other students’ works of a similar nature; yet my pieces were unique in that they were ghosts stories. These works, too, full of imagination and imagery, would propel me forward to create others that would eventually comprise a collection of ghost stories. Ongoing research in the paranormal, with resources such as, for example, this site, offers background information that has helped keep me grounded, real and focused. My ghosts, unlike those of many other writers, reflect what they really are—disembodied humans who are trapped and have lost their way, or who are around to help loved ones. Despite what many people think, ghosts are not the “scary green-eyed ghouls” out to kill; most spirits are generally harmless and seek communication with those in the realm of the physically living, or simply wish to be left alone.

At this point, I was totally absorbed in my writing, and I loved it (I had loans and didn’t have to work at this point). My other classes simply reinforced and fed my desire to write. Linguistics added that dimension of language origin and how the different parts of speech work together. Dialects brought some depth to my dialogue resources. Medieval Literature (one of my favorites) complemented both language origin and imaginative generation. I was nothing but writing.

This was where I wanted and needed to stay; this, to me, was home.

(End of Part I)

Next: My Professional Forties Part II: Freelance and the Family Man . . . .

Posted in Editing, Fiction, General Commentaries, Historical Accounts, Linguistics, Novels, Reality and Realism, Short Stories, Teaching, Translating and Translation | 6 Comments »

My Thriving Thirties: Rising Parallels . . .

Posted by CW64 on December 3, 2009

My thirties marked the rise of both my social life and my education. Both inspired my writing, and I found myself overwhelmed with very exciting and colorful ideas. This period was the ‘Golden Age’ of my life as a writer, which would carry on into my forties.

These ideas were based on people and experiences I had in East Lansing and faraway places.

In light of my advanced age (I was in my thirties, having transferred with my Associates degree late due to personal obligations in my twenties), I opted to stay in the graduate dorm so I would be closer to people my own age and level of experience. Although I was an upperclassman upon arrival, I wanted to spend time on campus to become familiar with the area before moving off campus. Everything is done in a process, and so it was at that time, when I took baby steps toward a greater end.

The memory and influence of people I met there would stay with me for years to come. Big John, a multilingual graduate student my age who had an affinity with Russia and had a penchant for figuring things out on intuition; Max, a flamboyant homosexual who was a few years older than I was (he was comfortable with himself and didn’t hide his orientation by any means); Will, a black TA of French, who was a year younger, loved his porn, and spent a lot of time on his laptop; Juan, from Spain, who was also a year younger and would be remembered for his hearty laugh; Diane, the bluebird-like 23-year-old girlfriend of a medical student  acquaintance (I knew a few; they’d pop into view once in a great while); Alex, an alcoholic painter with a ‘Jekyll-and-hyde’ disposition; Laura, his sunny-yet-spicy girlfriend, a lover of incense, Bob Dylan, antiques, who wore her heart on her sleeve; Ron, a graduate student in Advertising who bore a striking resemblance to Kenny G. and could smell a band a mile away; and Christine, a young 22-year-old spitfire who worked on the front line in the cafeteria. She was an undergrad and lived in the women’s dorm next door. With her, whether I liked it or not, my interest was more than friendship, although I never shared that with her.

My relationship with this last one is that which inspired The Long Road, a three-part short story about the passage of time and the coming home with a renewed perspective on life. Despite its connections with reality, this piece is not creative non-fiction; the work features fictional characters and events that were based on actual experiences. This recounts the rising parallels of my social development at the time and my increased motivation to/focus on fiction/journal writing.

I felt accepted into some folds and was still disregarded by others. Gossip was never my thing, and for good reason; personal dislikes were not always overt or expressed by every party involved. My apparent acceptance by others, though, kept me strong and solid. 

My life burst open and flourished. Drinking and shooting pool (a carry-over to Ringers), volleyball on the beach, picnics, museums, enjoying the art festival in the streets of East Lansing every summer, going to the movies—all formed particular friendships that added dimension to my life and guided me with insight into the social world.

Island of Fire, one of my first novel attempts, illustrates some of these relationships and how they both benefited me and caused trouble in my life. The story is fictional, analogous to reality in an abstract way, as none of the accounts in the story actually happened, nor were they similar to any real-life experiences. Thirteen college students trapped on a supposedly deserted island might be a common idea, but the unique twist can be seen in that the conflicts of the story lie within the contrast between the characters and the friction inherent in their respective relationships. This is how it was for me at the time.

Gradually, my friends went their separate ways, but they never left me; they are a part of me even today, including Christine.  I graduated in May of 1996, but I stayed in the neighborhood with an older family friend who, to my surprise, had been living nearby. I worked in the University Apartments maintenance over the summer and full-time in a convenience store in Lansing the following fall while living in a flop house among a host of aged derelicts that included a pot-bellied Bible-thumper who always wandered around in his sagging underwear (oh joy!). This was my attempt to gain some independence amidst my financial struggles (one cannot live on one’s own by working retail, unless one shares rent with another). However, even $227 a month was barely making it, and I didn’t last more than four months. Christine was kind enough to give me a ride home, ninety miles to suburban Detroit. We loaded up her brand new car to the brim (it was a miracle, but we did it), and headed out. That was the day I introduced her to my sister and mother.

The unfortunate inevitability came six months later. Her mother told me that Christine wanted me to go away. Indeed, this confused me, but I respected it. Supposedly, according to her mother, Chris had met a state lawyer and felt compelled to move in with him. Whether or not this was actually based on truth, it is another point on which I elaborate in The Long Road.

Any interest I had in women was wiped away, and this is how it remained till the present day.

There I was: back home again, with my college days behind me, and I was looking forward. To what, I didn’t know. I subbed in middle and high schools for a year and a half, along with tutoring English, Algebra and Spanish. Both subbing and tutoring were rewarding, and I knew they would serve well to help me get into graduate school. Their inconsistent nature and low pay forced me to abandon them and seek work elsewhere. I did—back in retail.

My life, at that point, was a tight focus on certain priorities, such as making money, but I never gave up on writing, despite the number of hours I put in at the gas station; writing, as always, was a priority of mine.’

The insight I gained throughout my thirties increased my self-confidence and determination, and I knew that all I needed to do was continue writing, regardless of what else I was doing at the time. As long as I did that, I knew I would eventually find success.

I was in my late-thirties, and I didn’t stop . . .

Next, the final chapter: My Professional Forties . . . .

 

Posted in Fiction, General Commentaries, Historical Accounts, Novels, Personal Experiences, Short Stories, Teaching, Tutoring, Writing Development Issues | Leave a Comment »

My Erratic Twenties: Disillusioned Individualist

Posted by CW64 on November 23, 2009

My isolation continued on into my late-teens and twenties, but that time period in my life became equally erratic, meaning filled with ‘on-again-off-again’ conflict and stress, not to mention a lack of self-esteem and second-guessing my own goals and direction.

When I started college at eighteen, part of me yearned to become socially accepted and to make friends; instead, I was outcast, kept at a distance and arrogantly snubbed by certain people who had made certain erroneous assumptions about me based on their own limited exposure to my actual person. These experiences, though hurtful at the time and haunting throughout the following decade, fueled me in ways that would eventually bring out skepticism towards people and the world around me through the flame of raw emotion; such interactions had an impact on me in so many humanly complex ways.

I worked odd jobs through my twenties while going to school on and off. Where this was a lack of direction, I see it now as a means to an end, struggling to not only find a niche, but to establish my own fertile and respectable identity.

One example dealt with the midnight shift at a gas station (that alone stirs the imagination with a variety of exciting as well as frightening possibilities). I worked under my ex-brother-in-law, an anal and bombastic runt of a man, who shouted rather than spoke calmly. I was held up by a druggie once, but I felt vindicated when, a short time later, I deterred a gas scam and had the driver arrested. My ongoing experiences here and in other retail scenarios have already been laid down in a recent three-part short story entitled Service, about a young frustrated man of 28 with a dismal existence who works at a convenience store. He is smart, though, and takes care of his own, until . . .

This came about predominantly through my artwork. I had started a novel about a sixties rock band living in Detroit, and one piece I sketched in precise detail depicted these characters. That work was one of a few showcased in an art exhibit.

Women, too, came back into the picture, but these only served as fleeting events which, although originally ‘hopefuls’ in romance, turned out to be mere "friendships" and rejections. As a result, I had limited engagement with females outside of my immediate family. This series of non-surprising let-downs shaped me in ways that could only inspire such jaded but realistic stories to which many people can and will relate.

Strangely, though, I became fascinated with erotica. Fantasies abounded! I never offered any of these visual depictions  for any art show, however, but I did carry through on writing out various fantasies that obsessed me at the time. Not only did I manage to express myself in this way and did so individualistically and creatively, but I also developed my writing skills by studying the concepts of imagery and metaphor, which I found had no end.

This was the time period, too, during which I continued developing my song-writing skills. I wrote a song for a woman during this era of my life–someone who, as I had suspected, turned out to be a lesbian. I hold no prejudice toward gays as I am liberal-minded in that sense, but the loss was a crushing blow. This young woman (twenty-five to my twenty-four) had a deep effect on me, and the music rang out. She and I are still ‘friends’ (whatever that means; we haven’t spoken in years), but that song is still fresh in my mind.

My writing, which definitely swelled to get out, was released in only bursts of energy. These bursts were erratic, but they reflected the spirit of a caged animal that yearned to be released. These writings, aside from my one novel and erotic samples, mostly revolved around class assignments written through creative angles. One was an essay I wrote on the novel Johnny Got His Gun. The story was about an unfortunate soldier who had lost his face and all of his limbs during WWI. The young man couldn’t cry out, couldn’t be heard, felt trapped within his own dark space. How eerily reminiscent of those in society who long to be heard and never are! I remember that piece and am still proud of it for the unique way I addressed the story and the issues pertaining to it.

Despite that, I felt lost. Where was I going? At 29, I had goals, but I had no self-confidence or light source to lead me there. I felt as if my life drifted aimlessly, with no end in sight. I knew I had to find a new milestone to reach; needed to grow and move forward. Women, if they fitted into this plan, were definitely not primary; my writing ambition took precedence, as so it should have, and I am glad it did.

Next: My Thriving Thirties: Rising Parallels . . . .

Posted in Essays and Creative Non-Fiction, Fiction, General Commentaries, Historical Accounts, Novels, Personal Experiences, Reality and Realism, Short Stories, Writing Development Issues | Leave a Comment »