Blogs by H. L. Cherryholmes
6/24/2008 5:09:12 PM
Iíve been telling stories since I was a little kid . Naturally, those stories werenít the written sort and some people (sticklers and such, you know the type) might call what I was doing lying, but I like to think of it as storytelling. Itís not easy telling a convincing story when youíre a kid, but sometimes I got away with it. Eventually, though, I figured out that writing down a story got me in a lot less trouble than making one up on the spot. I remember my third grade teacher, Mrs. Walker. I think that was her name, maybe it was Miss Walker (it couldnít have been Ms. because I didnít have a Ms. teacher until high school). It might not of even been Walker; I might be confusing her with my fourth grade teacher. I hope not. I didnít like my fourth grade teacher; she was mean. Or maybe she just looked mean. Mrs. umÖ damn, now Iím not sure at all that her name was Walker, probably wasnít. Anyhow, Mrs. Third-Grade-Teacher gave me a gold star on a story I had written about a horse. It wasnít the star that was important, though. It was that Mrs. Third-Grade-Teacher let me sit next to her in a big armchair and together we read my story. I might have even sat on her lapóimagine a teacher doing that today!óbut I was probably just squeezed in next to her. Still, it was intimate and made me feel important, made me feel like Iíd done something special, something good.
From that point on I wanted to sit with people in armchairs and read my stories. Figuratively, of course. Although, maybe not. After all, thereís an implicit intimacy when you read a story, especially fiction. Itís as if the author has called you over, asked you to sit down, and has said, ďI want to tell you a little story.Ē Youíre inside a writerís head when you read their story and, in turn, they are inside yours. Youíre not together in an armchair, but you might as well be.
So, I continued writing stories. One summer I wrote stories about my neighbors. These were more journalistic than fictional. Basically, I did it simply to get them to read what Iíd written and what better way to get someone to do that than to write about them. That didnít last long, though. I found it much more fun to write stuff that I made up. That way you didnít have someone telling you: ďThatís not the way I talkĒ or ďI donít do that.Ē And, although I donít think I realized it at the time, writing made-up stories allowed me to be more observational about my neighbors than when I worried about what they would say. More often than not, Iíd have to lie and say nicer things than I really thought.
Whereís the fun in that?
I also wrote plays. I won a contest sponsored by the Albuquerque Little Theater for young playwrights when I was a senior in high school. Got my picture in the newspaper and everythingóright on the front page of the arts section. Thatís when I began focusing on playwriting. I loved hearing people say the words I had written. I loved getting their interpretation of the sentences I had them speak. Many years later, I went on to get an MFA in playwriting from UCLA. Iíve had a couple of plays published and a couple of plays performed. I loved writing for the theater. But thenóno doubt because I was living in Los AngelesóI decided I should write screenplays. Iím sure I listened to someone who said that Iíd never make any money writing stage plays. So, I followed that advice and wrote screenplays. Several of them. Even had a couple of them considered by agents. Took meetings and all that. But because screen writing is such strict form of writing (like haikus, say, or iambic pentameter) it nearly sucked the life out of me.
Writing screenplays wasnít fun.
With screenplays, you had to plot it all out. You had to know exactly where you were going and exactly how you were going to get there. Something inside me rebelled at being forced to do this and froze up. I stopped writing anything. I stopped doing anything. I gave up. I just worked at a job that I had no interest in (and was hugely overqualified for) and wondered how people got through life. The one thing about that job, though, was that I had a computer. Everyday my fingers were on the keyboard, twitching to write something other than an email. After years of not writing, whatever had frozen began to thaw. I couldnít stand it any longer; I had to write something. I started with short stories. Very bad short stories, but that didnít matter. For once, I wasnít writing something for someone else to read. I was just writing. Thatís when I realized that I didnít want to write screenplays. I didnít want to write stage plays, either. I wanted to tell my stories my way and the only way to do that was not write with a strict format in mind (or an audience for that matter), just write. Novels were the perfect way to do that. I only had to have a notion of where I wanted the story to go. I didnít have to have it all laid out. I came to understand that Iím never as happy as when Iím in the middle of writing, when Iím in ďthe zone,Ē when the words are coming faster than my fingers can type.
Now thatís where the fun is.
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More Blogs by H. L. Cherryholmes
Brick & Mortar - Friday, September 12, 2008
P.O.D. - Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Idea - Sunday, July 13, 2008
Storytelling - Tuesday, June 24, 2008