Monday, October 23, 2006

Stories - Dale

Oliver Dale

Xoco's Fire - Story behind the story

I didn't write a glamorous story, and I'm afraid the story behind the story
bears no more sparkle. It didn't strike me with a bolt of inspiration. It
didn't pop like a greek goddess fully-formed from my forehead. That's not
how stories ever work with me. And, between you and me, I hate writers that
have it so easy. Pure jealousy, you understand.

So let's see....

I like dark fantasy. I always have. And I like to write it even more. It
probably originates with me watching my mother read an early story of mine
(I haven't been doing this for so long -- perhaps they're all still early
stories) and cringing. Such a primal reaction. I mean, they're just words
on a piece of paper, people. Black specks of burned toner that stuck to a
pressed and bleached slice of tree carcass. Nothing magical. Yet by
looking at them, you can convey an entire mood, a feeling, a story, an
emotion. You can creep people out, make them giggle, scream, cry, have
nightmares. I love that. Don't you? And that's pretty much all I
ever aim for when I write a story. As it turns out, giving nightmares has
always been easier for me than being sentimental. Whenever I try, I end up
writing the evil lovechild of a Hallmark card and a Lifetime movie. So I
stick with the blood, and the guts, the smoke, the crushed desires, the
sacrilegious pain.

"Xoco's Fire" started like most of mine do. It was a single, incomplete
idea at first. I pictured fire from the sky -- an omen. I thought of a
daughter born of privilege, but that privilege came with a burden, one that
no one would ask for. Then, like many writers, I asked why. And why, and
why, and why? Until I had a character I liked. Until I had a story I
didn't hate, and a bad guy I really did.

When I finished, it was 900 words long. For those of you not familiar with
this sort of thing, 900 words is like a freakin' fortune cookie. It's
nothing. Just a wisp of a story. And it wasn't very good. So what did I
do? That's right, I submitted it. And it got rejected. Oh yes, my
friends. Your surprise matches my own. Of course I realized then that my
why questions all got boring answers and that I didn't ask enough of them.
So I started over, and suddenly 900 words became 9000.

It took a year to write. It took another year to sell. Then it took half a
year to get published. This ain't a business for the impatient or the

And that's the process. Totally glamorous, right? I'll be in my trailer
getting powdered if you need me.


No comments: