The story garden

story-garden1(Note: This is a slightly modified version of a pair of posts which appeared at BloggerDad.com in December. However, I feel that it deserved a spot here, where creativity is the main course of the day and conversation flows like coffee. Plus it will shed some light on the back story to Available Darkness.)

“I am a man, and men are animals who tell stories. This is a gift from God, who spoke our species into being, but left the end of our story untold. That mystery is troubling to us. How could it be otherwise? Without the final part, we think, how are we to make sense of all that went before; which is to say, our lives?

So we make stories of our own, in fevered and envious imitation of our Maker, hoping that we’ll tell, by chance, what God left untold. And finishing our tale, come to understand why we were born.”

~Clive Barker – from the novel Sacrament

When I was 18, I worked the midnight shift as a cashier at a tiny gas station.

It wasn’t a convenience store/gas station hybrid that is commonplace these days. It was just an unremarkable gas station where many of my dreams were born.

My job consisted mostly of staying awake, alone in an eight by 18 foot box. The front end was the cashier’s booth. A door led to the back room which served as the storage room/restroom and the location of the safe which only the manager had access to. There was only one door leading in and out of the gas station. And it opened outward, not in.

The glass was bulletproof, or so I was told. I almost found out first hand, but that’s a story for another time. Other than gas, we sold vices – cigarettes, chips and candy, all which I placed into a drawer and slid to customers on the other side of the glass.

I had a lot of time on my hands. Time to think. Time to dream. Time to write.

My imagination amped to 10, story ideas flooded my senses.

I wrote several scraps of stories during the four year span which followed. I say scraps because I never completed any of them. A lot of the ideas were crap I have long since forgotten. But there were also seeds for what will someday be Great Works of Fiction!

I planted these story seeds with love, carefully cultivated them with extensive notes, character biographies and back stories.

I never went to work without my story seeds, stuffed into a large brown, weathered expanding file folder bound by a brown cord. I carried this folder in a backpack as I rode my bicycle (and sometimes walked) five miles each way to work. The folder was a beast to lug around, but I never left home without my seeds. I never knew when inspiration would allow me time to tend to my story garden.

Somehow, during the passage of years, I lost track of this batch of seeds.

I had moved on to other interests. I had my first serious relationship. I had my first serious breakup. I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment. I was in my 20’s and life was changing rapidly.

While my story garden overgrew with weeds, I still visited from time to time, if in spirit only.

I hadn’t seen the folder in more than 14 years. Some of the stories were merely fading memories, ghosts threatening to be forever exiled to purgatory.

Several months ago, my mother called to tell me that she had found something of mine while she was going through boxes of junk.

It was the folder. My story seeds.

It was bulky and tattered, but still bound by its threadbare cord which invited me to unwrap it and to step back into my garden.

It had been 14 years since I’d been into that garden. Weeds and thick roots twisted underfoot while many of the trees had grown wild, blotting out the sky. Still other trees were merely skeletal remains of what had been.

With a bit of time and love, I hoped to nourish the garden back to life.

The folder contains four stories immediately worthy of taking root and several saplings which could someday be something beautiful.

I’d love to guide you through the garden and point out the flora, but it‘s not quite ready. There is much work to be done, new seeds to plant. And to be honest, telling you about these stories would take away from the thrill of bringing them to fruition.

There is one old story, I’m ready to talk about, though. It’s a vampire story, of sorts. A man wakes up half naked, bloodied and left for dead inside a coffin. Oh yeah, he has no memory of anything prior to waking up. Who is he? Who left him for dead? What happened to him? What will happen?

I spent nearly three years on this tale and the story took many surprising turns and twists as it revealed itself to me.

story-garden-2

“You come out at night that’s when the energy comes and the dark side’s light and the vampires roam.”

Sarah McLachlan – Building a Mystery

I was building a mystery. Actually, I was building a vampire-like mythology. A far-reaching tale unlike the standard vampire fare. One that will stretch across several novels (though I envisioned the story more as a television series when I started).

The only problem with the story is that I haven’t had the proper time to devote to it. I’ve been writing another book, working on this blog and working on my comics. I have more ideas than time. I was going to let it sit in the garden a while longer. But then something happened.

Thanks to my blogging, I met the perfect writing partner.

I consider myself fairly humble. I’m a writer, but I definitely see the shortcomings in my own work, I do have an artist’s ego. I have a story to tell and I don’t want another artist tinkering with it.

As I mentioned before, Sean Platt and I have worked on a few things together in recent months. In our standard working arrangement, he handles the writing and I handle the graphics. During the past few months, we’ve collaborated increasingly more on writing – checking and sometimes editing each other’s work and offering suggestions. Our strengths and weaknesses seem to compliment each other perfectly.

One day we got to talking about serialized fiction and how much we enjoyed reading it back in the day.

I’d always wanted to present something in the format. Sean was equally excited by the prospect. That’s when I thought about the folder – I had a perfect story waiting in the garden.

I sent Sean the first mini-chapter of my vampire story. It was a rough, ROUGH edit. Something I wrote late at night just to get the ball rolling. When I woke the next morning, Sean had turned my rough draft into polished prose.

And it gave me chills!

My first instinct was, damn, he wrote this better than I did. A bit of artistic jealousy flared up, I’ll admit. But that feeling subsided quickly because it’s Sean, someone I’ve come to know, like, trust and respect during the past few months.

It’s a good working relationship – the kind I never imagined a year ago.

More importantly, he gets the story, gets what I am trying to do, is open to my re-edits and is reading the story as I provide the chapters – first as a reader, then as a writer before working his own magic. And it is magic, as this story might not have seen the light of dawn for several more years if I hadn’t met someone who I trust as much as Sean to help me bring it to life.

And I’m thrilled to be sharing the magic with you each week.

Community discussion: Tell us about your collaborative experiences. Have you met anyone through the web which has worked with you or helped make you a better writer?

ci-contest-boxSpeaking of good stories, there’s just THREE DAYS left to enter our contest to win a free premium Thesis WordPress Theme and other prizes like some assistance writing great copy!

13 responses to The story garden

  1. janice

    Ah, a fellow-gardener! I feel better now about that rambling bramble of a metaphor that grew out of my comment yesterday! Great post – and a wicked tease 😉 As a ‘Supernatural’ fan I’m even more intrigued to see what Friday’s post will bring…

    To answer your question; anyone who’s ever said one single kind word about any of my newsletter articles or ebooks has helped me be a better writer. I’m one of those who thrive on those quiet emails and heart felt responses, people who say thank you or tthat’s exactly how I was feeling. They make me want to write better, to be better.

    Sean and Eric’s joint Blueprint videos and your collaboration with Sean are a delight and an inspiration, too. They symbolise all the best that can come out of blogging, the marriage of minds that could happen so much oftener on lots of blogs but doesn’t because competitiveness, insecurities and egos get in the way. As I said to Sean, it’s a symbol of real synergy, a win/win for all of us. I love your honesty, that revelation about a moment’s twinge of jealousy; it made me smile because I think you’re a great writer, too, and so do lots of other people. I asked a question on my own blog about writing that made people happy and yours came up twice in the comments.

    Sean and Eric helped my blogging by telling me not to be scared to come into the playground and say hello, even though I’m older and Scottish – and still wary of taking up new-fangled stuff like twittering. Marc and Randi inspired me to comment from the heart as well as the mind. Mary Jaksch offered me a guest post and empowered me by making me feel like I had something to say that could help writers as well as coaches. Everyone who writes well and takes the time to comment is an inspiration to me because it’s a tough world for writers and the days aren’t long enough.

    janice’s last blog post..Choose the Right Words and Change your Life

  2. Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)

    I haven’t collaborated with another writer but I use art as inspiration (amongst a million and one other things). That’s quite close don’t you think? The art of others does teach and inspire. My most recent post is actually about this.

    I like your term ‘seeds of love’. I’m amazed that two writers can work together. Not just because of egos (we all have that) but because you understand one another so deeply.

    Paisley (Paisley Thoughts)’s last blog post..Instinctive Words, a Painting and a Pawnbroker

  3. Marc - WelshScribe

    I agree with Paisley. It’s remarkable what the two of you have been able to achieve together.

    You writing is like the harmonies of a choir yet both voices are strong enough to stand on its own.

    Collaborative writing in its most perfect form.

  4. Tumblemoose

    Hey guys,

    Very interesting. I just got through commenting on Iain Broomes Write For Your Life blog where he has a new post on collaboration and tips to make it happen successfully.

    Yours is a nice round out, real life addition.

    David, you’ve got a great writing style. I was pulled into this post from the first sentence. It’s highly likely that you and Sean will be a writing force to be reckoned with – You’re going to make some agent very rich.

    It will be fun to watch.

    George

    Tumblemoose’s last blog post..Tumblemoose Times – A writer’s newsletter

  5. Avital

    I have a folder in my computer with story seeds that goes back to Word 5.0… I used to have great imaginative story ideas but they have never developed any further. I have never thought to collaborate with other writers, though I did show some people those unripened seeds asking for feedback which was never genuinely given.

    Your collaboration obviously works like magic. So all I have to say is => “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” 🙂

  6. David Wright

    Janice – Thank you for the abundance of nice words! I appreciate them all. As for jealousy, I may as well admit it when I feel it. It’s the best way to counter it, I find. I have YET to see Supernatural. I’ve seen bits and pieces and it looks great, but I hate catching up late in a series. Maybe I’ll watch the DVD’s during the summer and catch up before next season starts. Thanks again, I’ll be checking out your blog.

    Paisley – Art can definitely inspire writing. I talked a bit about that in my post last week. I think the further away from a genre you practice than what inspires you, it really increases the odds of new mixtures of art. As for understanding one another, it’s quite rare, indeed to find someone like that. Sean and I have gelled better than ever I would have dreamed when I first read his words last summer.

    Marc – Thank you. I like your description.

    Tumblemoose – Hah, on the rich agent! Thank you for the nice words. Funny you should mention the first words of this post. I gave no thought at all to how to begin the post when I wrote it. Usually, I labor over the start of any piece of writing, searching for the perfect words. Even looking at it now, I’m not sure I would have chose these words had I given it more thought. But, thank you, I appreciate the compliment.

    Sean – ditto, bro.

    Vered – It’s definitely something you should try at least once. It’s like having a kid with someone (man, I am really trying not to make this seem romantic in any way). What I mean is that if you were to produce a child on your own, you’d know pretty much what it’ll be like. However, when you add someone else to the mix, you get their influences, which continue to surprise you as you look at what you’ve helped bring into the world.

    Avital – I learned to never hold back on critiques when I worked at the newspaper. I had to leave my ego at the door and listen to what more seasoned journalists told me about my work. And they were right each and every time. Well, almost every time. At any rate, I find the only way to grow is to find someone with a critical eye whom you can bounce stuff off of. It’s tough, especially when you’re friends with someone, because you don’t want to hurt their feelings. When Sean shows me stuff, I treat him like a pro and don’t spare his feelings if I think something isn’t working. I don’t say, “Man, you call THIS writing?!” or anything like that. I just say what doesn’t work and why. Fortunately, there’s not much that he shows me that has serious issues, which makes it a whole lot easier.

    Melissa – Thanks, I purposely avoided most vampire fiction so as not to shade this story with any influence. I want this thing to be as pure as possible, save for the influences already working on me. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on our story.

  7. Pages tagged "vampires are forever"

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  8. The story garden Collective Inkwell | Shed Kits

    […] The story garden Collective Inkwell Posted by root 22 hours ago (http://collectiveinkwell.com) Plus it will shed some light on the back story to available darkness a door led to the back room which served as the storage room restroom and the marc and randi inspired me to comment from the heart as well as the mind this site is powered by wordpress a Discuss  |  Bury |  News | the story garden collective inkwell […]

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