“The details of life have a tendency to interfere with the actual living of life.”
― Richard Diaz
Details interfere with more than life. They interfere with my writing. I’ve stated, more than once, how much I love editing. The shifting of words. It’s detailed work that I find myself getting lost in so easily. It’s the first draft that causes me sweating, heart-pounding dread. I hate first drafts, whether it be a short story or novel, it doesn’t matter. I hate the work of coordinating details. Those pesky details.
As I began work on a new novel, I’ve found myself at a standstill because of those pesky details. You see…There’s Tom. An elderly gentleman who, in my idea, was a retired pastor. As I began outlining a timeline of his life, pesky details have stepped in the way with their broad shoulders. I swear, they even snarled at me. His age is the problem. For the story to work right, I need him to be eighteen right around the time World War II started. Which would have made him eligible for the draft. Which means he wouldn’t have been in seminary school. Which kills the entire story.
As Jaz and I bounced the dates around and tried to make it work, we entertained making him younger. Which makes him eligible for the Korean draft. Or the Vietnam draft. Either way, it would also change the age of his wife, Esther, whom is the key ingredient to the story. She can’t be younger!
World War II has put a damper in my story.
I hate details. They’ve caused me nothing but frustration for days now, keeping me up with the calculator on my phone trying to work the numbers just right. Anyone who knows me can attest to my hatred of numbers. They’re all about the details too.
“The truth of the story lies in the details.”
― Paul Auster
Until today as I was driving through the Wisconsin country side on my way home from work. It’s a fantastic thing about story telling. Sometimes, you just have to quit playing God and let the story tell itself. I was so hooked on the concept that I’d intended, I didn’t listen. There is nothing worse than a story contrived. I was one step away from Waterboarding the story to get what I wanted. Fiction doesn’t work that way. The story wouldn’t have been true. So, I’m taking a step back and letting the details work themselves out. No torture. I swear.
It’s a natural human tendency to try to make the details of life go our way. We torture those in our lives as well as ourselves with a desired outcome in mind. How many of us walk away when the story of us doesn’t work out as planned? When our loved ones aren’t the Prince Charming we imagined as a child? When our jobs become bogged down with monotony? We are creatures of action. We want to make things happen. I, for example, want to done a cape and save the world.
For technical reasons, I won’t return to school this fall. I searched endlessly for the loophole and tried to make it happen. It was my story and I determined to make it go my way. There’s no saying that it won’t happen down the road, but I’ve since quit the fight. The less I fought, the more content I was to listen to the future for my next step. That’s when I received an email. My short story, “The Pattern of Snow” will be published in the next edition of The Write Room (http://www.thewritemag.com/) What an honor! Upon the news, I shed a quick tear, did a victory dance, and quickly fell into self-doubt and absolute terror.
But my story spoke. And I’m listening. What’s next? Well, if I had it my way….Scratch that. The details will work themselves out. After all, it’s the details that tell the story.