I Went to a Writing Group Today - February 27th, 2019

The writing group was a full table today, and great as always.


The prompt today was to write a story about a door. There were six pictures given, along with descriptions at the bottom. It's amazing what people come up with, but I'll go into that after my story.

It's so hard to capture what I'm thinking while I'm writing fiction. So much is occurring subconsciously that it's hard to be aware of it. I thought it would be cool to have an observer looking out of a window and something mysterious about the door. Then, I thought it might be interesting if he was watching a kid kick around a ball, and then involve a door somehow. Then I thought it might be interesting to move through character viewpoints throughout the story. It's risky, it could go bad, but writing exercises are a place to experiment. That experiment didn't work out. I was thinking about writing that way, but it just wouldn't go that way for me. So, it turned out differently. Here it is, I shall call it "The Boy, the Ball, and the Door".

- - - - - -

Jack looked out of the window. In the courtyard between the buildings there was a boy kicking a ball. He played by himself every day that it wasn't raining.

If the boy happened to be playing on Thursday at 2 o'clock he would stop when a woman walked by. The woman wore a red hat and always walked with purpose. She always went directly to the same place. A door across the courtyard from Jack's apartment.

The woman would walk up to the door. The boy would run to get a good angle to watch. The woman would linger at the door for a moment, then go in. The door would shut and the boy would go back to kicking his soccer ball around the courtyard.

On other days the boy would go up to the door too. There was no handle, but he would touch the squares on the pattern of the door. Nothing would happen, and then he would go back to playing with his ball.

This went on for months. Theories lept to the front of Jack's mind, only to be discarded moments later. Jack wanted to go to the door himself, to go talk to the boy, to stop the woman and ask her... something. But, he couldn't. He was limited to his view from the window.

On Thursday, May 16th at 2 o'clock, the woman in the red hat walked through the courtyard and entered the door. On Friday, May 17th at 1 o'clock, the boy walked up to the door and touched some of the squares. The door opened. He entered. Jack never saw the boy again. His soccer ball lays stained and flat in the grass on the side of the courtyard.

- - - - - - -

Some people noticeably reacted to the story when I was done, so that's good. I've been editing a lot of horror stories for the project I'm working on with my friend Oleg from Russian, "Horror Without Borders". I think that's why it took that darker twist near the end.

The idea for the next paragraph came from the paragraph that preceded it. I didn't really have much of a plan. It's amazing how that works. I added one "the" when I was typing this, otherwise this story isn't edited at all. This is exactly how I wrote it down at the meeting, other than it being written in pen in my notebook.

There are so many decisions to be made that you can only make them intuitively. You can analyze after you have something down, but it's dangerous when you're writing to try to analyze it when you're putting it down, it can stop the whole process. For instance, in my last paragraph I said the ball was flat. I could have said deflated. Why didn't I? I don't know. That's just the way it came out. I can make up a reason now, but I didn't have one at the time. There are so many decisions that it has to be done intuitively.

I needed our observer to only be able to observe for some reason. I realized that I didn't have a good reason, so I didn't put one in. When you read it you just assume the answer. I call that closure. When you leave the appropriate gaps in writing the reader fills in the rest, if done right it can make the story much better than explaining every detail.

There were many other good stories. Several people tried to lower expectations for their stories before they read them. But, then they were good. I'm split on whether that's good or bad, so I don't give anyone advice about it either way. I don't qualify my stories, or at least I try not to. I also have a tendency to lack confidence and I haven't found that very useful for myself.

It was mentioned how different all of the stories were. It was also mentioned how similar all of the stories are. I think that's because a door is a powerful symbol. It's the archetype of the unknown, of crossing a threshold, and of mystery. Someone mentioned that that's why there shouldn't be glass doors, lol. So, the stories are all about that archetypal idea, but they all do it in different ways.

One story was talking about the slow death of magic. It was strong enough that one woman almost cried about it. I think it's curious that epic fantasy often deals with the death or potential death of magic, but I've never read a story about the birth of magic. That might be worth considering.

I was happy to see my friend Jon at the meeting. He read one of these posts from my blog and decided to stop by. I know him from a Toastmasters public speaking group. He is a decent speaker, but he is an excellent writer. He wrote from a woman's perspective, which I struggle with, covering a huge portion of her life in a tiny story and it had solitude as a personified male antagonist. It was somber, and great. There's also a woman in the writing group that I took a reading tutor class with before who has good insights. It's nice to be surprised by showing up to places and knowing people there when you aren't expecting it.

One of the most interesting things about the meeting was the personal introduction portion. We didn't do separate introductions this time. You could just introduce yourself however you wanted before you read your story. I liked this format better, I think it works better. Most people don't really say anything about themselves. Many people just state their name. That's fine. I can even see why it may be better. But, I decided to say something about myself.

I wanted to keep it writing related so I said something like this: "Hi, I'm Jeff Martin. I write a chaotic blog at JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com. I'm also editing two horror story anthologies for a publishing house in Russia. I was recently recruited to write a comic book by an illustrator in Muskegon. And, I'm writing a series of speeches for the Harry Potter festival in Sparta this summer. I guess that's about it."

That last line got a little laugh because people thought that was a lot of stuff. I cut my activities way short though, otherwise the intro feels too long for people. I didn't mention that I'm writing a play, a series of philosophy essays for the International Society For Philosophers, and that I write a weekly article analyzing lyrics for 88.9 Hey Radio out of North Muskegon. Even if I mentioned all of that it would be cutting my writing activities way short. I'm keeping extensive notes on a whole bunch of things ranging from various fiction projects to philosophy articles to memoirs. I have notes for over 100 articles on my blog that I haven't written yet. I have dozens of good story ideas. But, I seem to need time to let these ideas germinate. I know many other writers have had this same need. Writers from Mark Twain to Michael Crichton have thought about story ideas for years before beginning to write them. It still seems odd though.

The session was great as always. The reason it works so well is that it's just a fun exercise to push yourself and see what happens, you only write for twenty minutes, it's always a pretty open subject, there is little feedback and it is wholly supportive, we jump right into the writing exercise at first and then go around reading them, and the whole thing is done in an hour. It's highly enjoyable and really helps me to open up my perspective.

Here are my articles on the last two sessions I went to:

I Went to a Writing Group Yesterday - January 23rd, 2019
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2019/01/i-went-to-writing-group-yesterday.html

I Went to a Writing Group Today - January 9th, 2019
http://www.jeffreyalexandermartin.com/2019/01/i-went-to-writing-group-today.html

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You can find more of what I'm doing at http://www.JeffreyAlexanderMartin.com

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