As I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve not written a lot of fiction. In my early days (translation: back in the stone age when I was in high school) I dabbled with poetry and short stories and essentially produced a small pile of crap. My conclusion: I suck at writing fiction. Years later, I started spending a lot (too much) of my time online in chat forums and inadvertently began honing my writing skills as I engaged in the utterly useless, but thoroughly enjoyable art of internet fighting. At first I cut my teeth on learning how to properly “flame” a person, which is basically a way of creatively insulting the character of someone I’ve never met. From there I drew on the essay skills I first encountered in my sophomore English class and later developed in several college courses. I used these essay writing skills to craft logical and nearly indefensible arguments against the many trolls online that, I’m quite sure, were very impressed that I could draft a five paragraph response as to why I actually didn’t suck donkey nuts.
Armed with those literary skills, I decided that I would finally venture into the wonderful world of professional writing. How hard could it be? I started a blog, wrote some clever posts and people started to take note. Prior to that, I had begun working on several “brilliant” screenplays that I was (and still am) certain will someday be sold and help pay for a new house. (I’ll be sure to let you know how that works out for me). My writing career was off and running.
With my screenplays in hiatus and my blog starting to feel stale, I decided to try my hand once again at fiction. I discovered that this time around, the stories were developing a bit easier than before. In fact, the shorter the story, the easier I found it to be. (Which is not to say that flash fiction is easy. It’s not. Try to develop a character, create a setting, craft a plot and insert a catchy twist at the end in 100 words or less. Exactly. Not a picnic.)
The reason I found short stories more enticing than tackling the daunting task of a novel or even finishing my screenplays is because there are only so many plot events that happen in a short story. I tend to focus more on character development and setting than actual plot. Creating a plot is my Achilles heal. I start with a good idea, a tantalizing premise and even an interesting character or two. I can get a good bang out of the first 1000 words or so and then… I get the dreaded question that I imagine all writers get at some point in their story.
And then what happens?
I hit a wall and realize the well is dry. Sure, I got that great turbo-charged start off the blocks and took a few turns at break-neck speed. Now I’m in a long straightaway and I have NO idea where I’m going. Of course, I do what any self-respecting and long time coward would do. I stop. I get cold feet and I slam on the brakes and now I’m sitting there, engine idling and I’m going nowhere. I know I should put the story back in gear and try to find my way along, but more often than not, I turn off the key and walk away.
Now, I admit, there have been a few times where I have pushed on through to the end but I’ve never been really satisfied with the end result. I have to wonder: What is the greater evil — finishing a story with a crappy to mediocre ending or abandoning a really good start to a story and letting it die of natural causes?
I wish I could end this article with some kind of profound wisdom gleaned from a writers epiphany. I’d love to tell you that I finally resolved this dilemma and have a secret to pass on to other writers to assist them with this persistent problem, but the truth is, I’m still trapped on the desert island. Perhaps one of you can offer sage advice and tell me what you’ve learned in your many trials and errors in writing? Or maybe you’d just like to commiserate with me and at least know that YOU are not alone in this quagmire that traps so many of us.
Ok, blog is done. My brain keeps asking… And then what happens? The answer is — Nothing. Cue credits.