Sunday, January 1, 2012

"I've Been Deader" How I DId It.

I never read a zombie novel before.  I didn't even know they were popular when I began writing what is perhaps the greatest novel the next novel I'm writing.  Here's what happened.

As a kid, I enjoyed writing short pieces that made people laugh.   Not all people, women mostly.   Scantily clad women with writer fetishes.  Alas, life got in the way and I stopped writing in my twenties.  For twenty years, the greatest novels never written continued to slip through my idle hands.  Then one day, in October of 2008, I was fortunate enough to lose everything, more or less.  Then, on another one day, I rediscovered writing.  

First, there were the poems.  Even my ego isn't big enough to think anyone is interested in that.  My poems are quite good, excellent really.  But in the end, they are still poems.  So let's move on.

In late 2008, I joined Scribophile.com.  A writer's critique site.   There I learned the magic of flash fiction.  So I tried it.  My first piece of flash was called "Commute."  A quick 1,000 words or so that told the story of a zombie named Fred. Not just a zombie, but a zombie stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike.  Poor Fred could think like you and me, but whenever he spoke, it was always "Brraaiinnss..."   The story was told from Fred's point of view, and people loved it. 

"Commute" received a lot of positive feedback and at some point I felt I had to reply to all the comments.  I really had no idea what to say, so I made up a lie.  I told them that I was thinking of expanding "Commute" into a full novel, written in a series of flash fiction pieces, so that each chapter could be read as a stand-alone story, while contributing to the overall arc of the novel (whatever that means).

I started talking about how today's readers are used to getting their entertainment and information quickly, and don't want to wade through chapter after chapter to start enjoying a story.   They want the story slapped down in front of them in quick, digestible bite-sized pieces.   That's what I said, but really, I had not idea what I was talking about, and no plans to write a zombie novel.

As soon as I typed my lie, however, I believed it.  'If they liked this," I thought, "they'll probably like more."   So I wrote a little more, knowing I'd never actually finish.  Readers loved it.  They ate this stuff up.  The problem was, I still had no idea what I was doing, or where I was going with this story.  

In my original second Chapter, Fred tried to woo a "breather" named Aleta.  Again, the response was overwhelming positive.  I had struck a nice balance of comedy and horror within the chapter.  So I thought, maybe I can make some chapters heavy on the comedy and others heavy on the horror.  I mean, if each chapter is it's own story, more or less, that shouldn't be a problem.

So I did.  Readers loved it.  I came up with a catchy title ("I've Been Deader"),  and kept writing; some chapters horror with a little comedy and some comedy with a little horror.   Sometimes I'd write flash fiction stories and then just tweak them a bit and make them part of the novel. 

In the end, I had this novel.  This beautiful, disgusting, funny, horrifying novel, and it worked.

"I've Been Deader" would never have been completed if it weren't for a little white lie I posted on a writing website.  What I'm trying to say is, the only thing that limits what you can write, is you.   You set the limits on what you can do and who you are.   When we define ourselves, and we all have to do it, we limit ourselves.  You can't define something without limiting what it is.

Sometimes though, you need to forget your limitations.  Sometimes you just need to be more than you.