Last night was one of my rare nights out. As in, I actually get out of the house for some conversation and pizza. The last time was a month ago, and what with everything that’s went on in my life of late, it felt like a good time to get out and relax.
But I didn’t relax. I was tired most of the night. At one point I almost fell asleep watching TV. The pizza didn’t have flavor. And when I drove home, my mind was in neutral. It was one of those cool, cloudy evenings that I usually love, but the drive home was . . . well, there wasn’t any traffic, which was the high point of the trip.
Everything seemed a note or two off. Hell, I couldn’t even get a good scene up in my mind.
Not that I didn’t try. I went back to that well I call, “Twenty Years of Stories You Want to Tell, Man!” and latched onto one that, believe it or not, I actually wrote and completed back in 1990. ”And how did that happen?” I hear someone asking?
Glad you asked. I wrote it for four women in my office. No, really. It came about because of a lunch where I was out with these same ladies, and I was talking about writing, and it was sorta like, “Hey, Ray, when are you going to, you know, show us some of this mythical writing you do?” Not being one to have four women throw the gauntlet back in my face, I sat down and cranked out a very long story (do I write any other kind?) titled, Dinners at the Memory’s End.
At the time I thought it was good. It still is, but I thought of it a lot last night, because there are certain things in the story that is pretty doggy. There’s no other way to put it, because there are aspects of the story, as it was written 22 years ago, that wouldn’t work today. No how, no way.
So were I to write this story today, I would change it in some significant ways. Notice the “were” part there. Of course, if I’m thinking about writing this story, it’s because I’m interested in writing this story. Or rewriting it, as the case may be. And it would be a major rewrite, but it would also bring back a story that, for me, was something of a favorite. And not just because I got to show off like some beat poet trying to get laid. It’s a favorite because it was the first novella I wrote, and completed.
And it was good.
I’m learning that a good writer knows what to write, what to rewrite, and what not to get into. One of the reasons I was a bit off last night–perhaps a bit off for a while, come to thinking of it–has to do with the idea of writing a YA story about two of my favorite young characters, Annie and Kerry. I saw “Annie” yesterday, and told her my idea for the prologue to the novel. And she loved it. She thought it was great–
Then . . . I realized I couldn’t write this story. Not yet. Not now.
Part of the truth is that I don’t really have it in me, at the moment, to make this a real story. I’ve the idea, and the idea is good, but that’s all it is. I can run with ideas, because I’ve done that before. Stories are ideas, and you put them in the car with you, hit the gas, and head towards your destination with a basket full of tunes and some tasty beverages to pass the time.
There’s something else here, however. That something is Annie.
Annie is a character, but she’s also a person, someone I’ve known for a while. And I know her investment in that character. Yes, she’s told me, “Take the character, make her your own, and let the story fly, you creative little scribbler, you!” I would, you know. I totally would.
But I love the character too much.
It’s a awesome responsibility to take something created by another person and do with it as one likes. Happens in comic books all the time. I mean, is the same person who created Wonder Woman still penning her stories? No. One, he’s dead. Two, if he were, we’d still have Wonder Woman running around playing bondage games with the other Amazon ladies. Instead, we totally find out the Amazons got no use for their baby boys, and pretty much sell them off into slavery, misery, and death. Shit happens, you know?
That’s what happens when you have others playing with your characters; they can end up doing very strange things, or acting in ways that don’t seem right. With Annie, I want to get her right. I don’t want her to be a shadow, or a shade, or act in a strange way. The only way to do that right is to have the Real Annie work with me on the Character Annie.
At the moment, that’s not possible.
So there is no telling of this particular story, at least not now. Maybe not for a while. Maybe not ever. I’ll write the prologue, because it needs writing, but for now . . . no, I won’t go there. Because every time I think about making that move, I get this thing in the corner of my eye, and it bothers me.
I care for Annie, a lot. To use a Jack O’Neill (with two “l’s”; the guy with one “l” has no sense of humor) comment, “I care for her a lot more than I should.” Because I do, I can’t run off with her character. I have to be careful. I have to be honest. I have to be loving. Until I’m ready for all that, I can’t write the story that will, eventually, be written.
Every story comes in its time. Annie’s will come–
When it does, it’ll be beautiful. Just like her.
I own it to Annie.