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"Hard is not hopeless." - General David Petraeus

Friday, November 5, 2010

On The Spot Stories--But No Pressure

Phew. Almost 3 weeks since I last posted. I feel like I've been chewed up and spit out, for numerous reasons.

But about deadlines.

Yesterday on Rachelle Gardner's blog, she had a guest blogger whose post was "Writing Under A (Supertight) Deadline."

I lived that last week. The bad news is, a family tragedy sent me back east to be with my family. The good news was getting to visit said family, including my nieces and nephews. My 7 year old niece and I were play buddies while I wasn't busy doing other things. Among other things, we played approximately 1500 games of "Go Fish", "Concentration" and "Slap." That's cool. Though I confess I did get tired of looking at the deck of fish cards and longed for a regular pack of cards with Kings, Queens and Jokers.

But wait...this IS writing related.

You see one night, my two nieces and I were in the seven year old niece's bedroom. My young niece asked me to write her a story. I thought she meant like over the course of time. But you know how this younger generation is.... She wanted it NOW.

"Okay," I said. "What story shall I write for you?"

"I don't know," was her helpful reply.

So I tried again. "If I'm going to write you a story, you have to give me some characters to work with. Who is your main character?"

That got her to thinking and she informed me the lead character was a fox named Socks, and gave me a few other details. From there, the rest was up to me. So I sat on the bed in her bedroom while she played nearby with some of her toys. I'd dilligently scratch away on the spiral notebook, and every few minutes she'd stop playing and ask me "Read what you've got so far."

This was my first made-to-order short story, so I wanted to please, and carefully did what she asked. She'd nod okay. I'd go back to writing. She'd go back to playing. Until a few minutes later when she asked me again.

I was in quite the quandary. Here I was, historical fiction author who took SIX YEARS to write her first novel. And one little 7 year old child was demanding I write a story in probably less than 45 minutes.


Add to that, my young, almost-two-year-old nephew entered the room, and proceeded to play on the bed, bouncing and jiggling it while I tried to write. Uh--did I mention I usually write in the absolute peace and stillness of my apartment?

But at last, and much to my niece's delight, I FINALLY finished the story and read it to my audience of three.

My nephew was not particularly interested, but at least he stayed in the room. My young niece nodded again and seemed to come to a decision. "Now let's practice it, then we'll put it on as a play." (My sisters and Aunt and Uncle and brother-in-law were watching TV in the living room).

My sweet older niece offered her services as reader of the story--no small feat considering she would have to read my chicken scratch handwriting. My young niece played the starring role of the Fox named Socks, and I acted the other bit parts of the other farm animals. My little two year old nephew even did an EXCELLENT job providing barnyard sound effects during the rehearsal.

We ran through it once, then trooped toward the living room and our unsuspecting family members. But they graciously agreed to watch the play, even though it disrupted viewing of the World Series game between the Texas Rangers and the SF Giants (or whoever the CA team was...I was rooting for the Rangers).

All in all, the first "play-on-demand" story went off very well. Older niece was an excellent narrator and didn't miss a beat reading my horrid handwriting. Younger niece made a fine Socks the Fox. As for my nephew...well, he was great in practice but flamed out during the performance. Or more appropriately, had long since lost interest in the play and was tearing into some of his toys.

The point of this story? You never know what events in life will give you practical experience and practice in your career as a writer. Who knew a 7 year old could put the squeeze on me and get me to churn out a story in under an hour?

Where was she when I started my novel? 8-)

1 comment:

Cathee said...

Hey, that could be your first publication, you could have a career as an author of children's books as well. Or yo9u and your niece could do a co-author type of thing.