Dime Store Philosophy:

Who's Your Author?

By Ismael Manzano


            Welcome back to my Dime Store; Humorous tales are located on the right, wisdom on the left–each priced according to demand.  Today’s merchandise comes imported from my wife’s latest blog “Child’s Play.”  In her last blog, she reminisced on her writing career thus far and offered to her patrons some examples of writing exercises that have worked for her in the past.  That got me thinking a little about what I have learned throughout my tenure as an aspiring writer.  While I don’t think I’ve learned nearly what she has, certainly, I could not come up with four or more writing exercises to help my patrons in their quest, I have learned one minor thing and one very important thing.  Each may only apply to me and my mental struggle with creativity, but I’m banking that someone somewhere will benefit from these two granules of advice.

            The first bit of advice, is very bland and generic–at least I think so–and it is this: Always know what you’re going to write before you begin to write it.  Have all your secrets, revelations and explanations plotted out.  From the very beginning of my attempts at writing back when I was ten and up until now, I’ve constantly made the mistake of writing without truly knowing where I was going with the story and the results where disastrous.  Most manuscripts were never even completed, left abandoned in a drawer or in some obscure file in an old computer, never to be reopened.

            Not thinking things through can lead to some colossal blunders in plot and consistency.  For example, one of my earliest attempts at writing–and please remember that I was eleven years old–narrated the death of a character via a heart attack made mysterious by his still beating heart.  Yeah, I really didn’t think that one through, but I needed the death to be questionable and since I hadn’t planned ahead, that was what my eleven year old mind came up with.  Another infamous–in my mind anyway–literary blunder was a story which I wrote at age twelve in an attempt to create my own The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I had a premise that I wanted to get across to the reader but had no idea how to do so, but I kept writing anyway.  The premise was of a fantastical world in which wars fought with the mind and battles were won not by the strongest but by the most mentally deft.  What I wrote was a world in which a giant snake-looking creature and a bird-man, played chess on a battlefield instead of trying to kill one another.  I WAS TWELVE!!!  I knew then that I was going in the wrong direction but I kept pushing through instead of taking the time to think about how to fix the story and get it back on track.

TANGENT: Who is this Justin Bieber?  What deal has he made with the devil to suddenly be propelled to the forefront of fame?  How is this Canadian Bacon Bit getting enough juice to cause a pre-teen riot in malls?  His album just drop a week ago and I’ve been hearing about him for months.  How does that work?  And more importantly, how do I get my hands on that magical lamp, that monkey’s paw, that cursed artifact that will allow me to become a national treasure in the blink of an eye?  Cuz, I’ll do it.  I’ll make that wish, I’ll push that button, I’ll take that blood pact, if it means I can achieve a fraction of that little booger’s notoriety.

            Back to the point: Maybe not all of you have that problem.  Maybe other people can hold the idea and all its twist and turns in their head in an abstract form and just write it out, figuring out the problems as they go along.  I am not one of those people.  I need to have it all worked out before I start the story.  But before I even work out the kinks of the story, I have to have a story to unkink, which brings me to my second bit of advice, and this is the important one: You should always feel connected to what you’re writing.  It should mean something to you.  That connection will be an anchor that will keep your heart returning to that story when everything else is trying to force you away from it.  

             I’ve had some amazing stories in my head that have gone nowhere because I couldn’t find a connection to them.  And what I realized now is that my whole life, my entire collection of works will most likely boil down to four stories.  Three of which I’ve already completed and am in the process of revising or rewriting.  The theme–the heart–of each story is as follows: Sibling rivalry; Losing the innocence of youth; Wanting to heal the emotional wounds of loved ones; Fighting for a destiny that is not meant to be.  These four themes constitute the messages I’ve always tried to get across in my stories.  The window-dressing of the story has changed several times, but I still consider them to be the same stories.  And even though I may never see these stories in print, I think I will always be writing one of them in some incarnation or another.

            Well, that pretty much wraps up my little bit of advice for now.  But before I close, let’s just go over a few more horrible stories I’ve tried to write over the years.  Let’s see, there was the King Arthur rip off that in which a boy peasant pulled a mythical sword out of a lake of mud instead of a stone to become the leader of a vast army–I actually thought that detail made it a totally different story.  There was the sci-fi story in which a Wolverine character–complete with one retractable claw and animal fits of rage–fought against an evil ‘Regulator.’  There was the other sci-fi story, told through a series of ‘Captain’s Logs,’ that was not at all in the slightest way like Star Trek –at all.  There was the one about the talking crystal.  There was the one about the teenage group of magical users from another dimension who seemed to make a lot of pop culture references they had no way of knowing about.  Oh, there was that one story where I took creative license way too far and actually wrote what I–as the author–was doing as I was writing the story.  Example: when I had to stop writing to go to school, I would write that I had to stop writing to go to school and that I would resume the story the next day.

            Well that’s enough embarrassment for now.

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