Sometimes it’s the tiniest thing someone says.
When I was writing Summer, I asked friends if they knew about hunting practices that took place in Texas. One friend joked – snipe hunting. I liked the sound of it, even though I didn’t know what it meant. I looked it up. And it got me thinking.
I’d been reading some non-fiction, books about growing older with positivity. I decided to write about a man getting older, and happier. No mid-life crisis here. I wanted him to have a gentleness – a sensuousness – contrary to his image as an ageing has-been. I wanted to have the young men around him, tease him (affectionately), display their young girlfriends like trophies they don’t realise he doesn’t want. I wanted him to finally be able to face up to the fears of his past, and to turn the trick around that the young men try to play on him. All because he’s older and wiser. I set it in Texas too, as a twin story for Summer.
It’s an exciting thing, having that first story submission accepted. But the most interesting part of the experience was seeing how the actor interpreted my story. I’m in the habit of reading my work aloud, both at readings, and in the process of writing. I write for my voice. I know where and how I want the emphasis, the pause, the pace. A reader isn’t to know that, of course. I can’t sit over the shoulder of anyone reading my stories, even if I wanted to. The clue has to be in the writing.
The actor added an urgency and drama, which was exactly right for the event. He kept the audience’s attention throughout which was quite a feat considering the size of the crowd. His dress and manner brought the characters and the story to life.
Still, it was like a strange kind of loss hearing my words read in a way I hadn’t imagined when writing. The distance between me and my story was sudden. It was my first time. I hadn’t known to expect it. I felt silly and over-dramatic. The lovely comments I received about my story made it better.
Once your writing leaves your hands, it really isn’t yours any more. It goes on to have a life of its own.
Send it away, because that is the point, after all.
For Liars’ League submissions and themes, go here.