Making stuff up is just plain fun! I love inventing characters and exploring outlandish ideas. Of course, writing a really good story — where the characters seem real, the plot hangs together, the setting is evocative, and the voice and pacing are perfect — is hard work.
It also never ceases to amaze me how many different ways there are to say something, and each way carries a slightly different meaning or connotation. Even exchanging one word for a synonym can completely alter the meaning of a sentence. So getting the words right, and using just exactly the right amount of words — not a single one more or a single one less — can be very challenging. But when it all falls into place, there’s nothing else like it.
I’ve been writing fiction since I was in seventh grade, but I’d be lying if I said any of that early stuff was any good. I wrote my first science fiction story when I was a senior in high school, and I was very proud of it at the time. I got a rude awakening when I submitted it for a college creative writing course! I can say with all confidence now, looking back, that the story was unredeemably awful. If I could, I’d thank that teacher who told me in not very gentle terms that the story was terrible. But at the time…ouch!
It was a good lesson, though. You have to treat a story you’ve written like it’s a product. Sure, a lot of emotional energy went into writing it, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but in the end it’s just a product. You have to separate your emotions. When you’re writing the story, you’re married to it. But when it comes time for revision, you need to file for divorce. It’s an amicable divorce, to be sure. You still love the story and its characters, but the question in your head has to be: What can I do to make it the best it can be? To be successful in that, you have to look at it with clear and unbiased eyes, and you have to be able to take constructive criticism. If your feelings are hurt by that criticism, you shouldn’t be a writer.
The links below will take you to short stories I’ve written, each one prefaced by notes about its origin. Enjoy!
What happens when you start fooling with the laws of probability, and reptiles start appearing out of nowhere? Although this story is unpublished, it’s still one of my favorites.
Flowers in the field
Can there be such a thing as prose Haiku? I gave it a try with this little story, published in the journal Cicada.
The Dust From Falling Stars
This story came to me as I looked for Halley’s comet in the dead of night, deep in the Antarctic winter.