I have known Elizabeth for many years. Not only is she smart, funny, and a great friend, but she’s also a great writer and photographer. She can be found on LiveJournal or view her wonderful photographs at her Flickr account or her PhotoBlog.
I’ve always been a storyteller, since before I can remember. When I was little, I had three (count ‘em!) imaginary friends, and I would make up adventures for the four of us. I I would draw pictures of our adventures, and when I learned to write, I would make little books full of fabulous (or so I thought) stories. Being the eldest child (and one of the older kids in the neighborhood), I usually directed our group play. I was always Peter Pan (I grew up with Mary Martin as Peter, so that wasn’t too unusual), the ringmaster, the wicked witch; whichever role was the most prominent, or most dramatic.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve made up stories in my head when I went to bed. They’d be little movies, often playing out over several consecutive nights, and often with sequels and prequels to follow.
Even when I wasn’t actively writing fiction, I was always a storyteller. Writing Wiccan rituals, sharing stories around a campfire, even in my jobs in sales, I was weaving a narrative, telling a story, connecting with others through the power of words.
A few years ago, I got more serious about writing. I gathered up all the half-written stories I had stowed away in notebooks and on hard drives, and took a good hard look at what I had. A few themes stood out, but I was struggling to find a voice. When I finally figured out that I was writing the way I thought I was supposed to, instead of how I really wanted to, it was like a dam broke. I started writing to please myself instead of a mythical reader, and the words flowed much more easily.
My favorite form is flash fiction: a quick, short story, written all at once and in under half an hour. Something self-contained, a little vignette sparked by something I’d see or hear. I’m really at my best when I can get down even the bones of a story right when I have the idea. I’m not the kind of person who can sit at a keyboard for hours every day, working a story over and over. My attention span is just not that long!
A while back, though, I had a germ of an idea that threatened to become something more than just a short, self-contained little story. The original idea was sparked by a customer placing an ad for her condo (I work at a newspaper), and the main character sprung nearly fully-formed in my head. My first thought was to write a series of linked short stories, as more ideas for this character and her situation came to me.
I finally resigned myself to the fact that only a novel would do this story justice, and had to start nearly from scratch in order to weave all the elements together. That was really tough at first, but once I got started, it actually became easier than writing a series of separate stories. I had little notebooks with snippets and ideas and names. I sat down at my computer, ready to tell this character’s story. I knew what was going to happen, and when, and even where.
Something just wasn’t working, however. I wasn’t getting across this character’s voice and personality, which was so clear in my head. I decided that the problem was point-of-view: I had to tell this in first person in order to properly present my character’s little quirks. I really didn’t want to do this, but it seemed the only way. So I started all over again, nearly from scratch. Again.
I’m making progress on my story, and as long as I dedicate time to writing away from the internet and other distractions, I know I can finish it. The hard part isn’t writing, it’s staying focused. I have a lot of respect for writers who can sit and write every single day, for hours at a time. The key, I suppose, is to really want it. I will always have stories in me, and I must have discipline in order to keep telling them.