Stood in the street
And stamped his feet
And no one heard him.”
-J.P. Donleavy, The Ginger Man
I’ve been writing off and on for most of my life. Over the years, I’ve filled spiral notebooks with story ideas, bits of dialogue, and emo lamentations of youth. The latter have mercifully been in short supply lately, one of the benefits of not having much youth left.
And yet here I am, no less an attention whore than I was decades ago.
I think I was in my mid forties when I figured out how to tell a story worth telling. I guess that makes me a slow learner. The fiction workshops I enrolled in didn’t teach me this. They taught me about character development. That’s an invaluable skill to have if you want to create character-driven fiction. What I didn’t get was exactly how these fully formed characters were expected to drive the action in a story. It was as if the craft of plotting was dismissed as something vulgar, the stuff of potboilers and other swill.
As a result, a lot of my stories from that period had internally conflicted people doing jack shit about it. I spent countless hours on a barstool worrying about this, a living embodiment of my literary shortcomings.
What got me out of this rut was the decision to embrace my vulgarity in my fiction writing. There was certainly no shortage of that as far as the rest of me went. I have always excelled at saying cringeworthy things, but I had somehow gotten it into my head that the stories I wrote should not stoop to that level.
What a fool I was. I won’t be making that mistake again.