I often read Chuck Wendig’s TerribleMinds blog: I find it to be informative and always entertaining, and the comments are often fun as well. So when I saw a “flash fiction” challenge that didn’t involve flash fiction, in his post titled “Today’s Flash Fiction Writing Challenge Is Not About Fiction,” I thought, why not? Let me give it a try!
It’s not really a question I’ve often asked myself. The short answer, I suppose, is that I really enjoy it. Why do I play piano or guitar? Because I enjoy it. I’m good enough on both to play in, like, amateur bands and such, with an occasional appearance on a CD or something, but I’m not massively talented on either one. Plus, I don’t put in the work to take full advantage of the talent I do have. I was, at one point in my life, able to supplement my income by playing music. Not by much, but still…
So I write for the same reason. I like to write. I think I do it well. I’m no Stephen King, but I think I’m as good as a lot of people writing fiction today. I know what I like when I read, and I try to write those same things, in that same style. Why do I think I can do it well enough to publish stories? For the same reason that I was able to take the stage in front of a house full of bar patrons or wedding guests and feel comfortable playing a rip-roaring solo on a rock and roll tune on piano.
There’s a longer answer. When I read some of the other entries to Chuck’s challenge, I noticed that mostly, they had deeper thoughts on this issue. So I thought, there must be a deeper reason for me as well. And I thought about it some more, and came up with some other stuff.
I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. I watched a Disney episode on some wild animal or another, with the folksy narrator who personified the cute little bugger, and I wrote my own story in the same vain, about a bobcat in New York. I read some non-fiction about Native Americans and the trains that traveled through the plains with the passengers shooting cows, er, ah, bison who were meandering on the prairies, minding their own business and munching away. Then I wrote a short story about something like that. I loved baseball as a kid, and made up my own fictional team (The Joliet Argonauts) and wrote three long-ish stories that detailed their championship run. (My teacher told me that I might have a future as a sportscaster or a sports journalist.) My friends and I had a snowball fight and I fictionalized that.
I always wanted to describe the world the way I thought it should be, or maybe the way I wanted it to be. So I wrote. When I read stories by Heinlein, by Asimov, by Clarke, then later by King, Koontz, McCammon and so many others, I saw worlds that inspired me to think about my own worlds…and it seemed natural to write about those worlds. Even more, I saw characters that drew me in, that made me feel like I knew them. And I pictured my own characters, and again, it seemed natural to put them into situations.
These situations are called stories, and I write them for the same reason I read a lot – because I want to see what happens to these characters as they explore these worlds.
That’s my own story, and I’m sticking to it.