OUT OF THE CLUTTER OF A WRITER’S MIND
Or, How I Turned My Inner Demons In To Some Not-Too-Bad Stories
By Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
This week over at Flash Fiction Friday, instead of posting a writing prompt, Flannery Alden invited everyone to share a little bit about how and why we write… what inspires us? What kind of fiction do we write? What kind of fiction do we read? Hmm…
I need to go back in time for a moment… back to a guest blog I did for Paul D. Brazill some time back…
Why do we write? The three “E’s” come to mind… express… explore… entertain. When we write, we usually have a specific purpose or goal in mind… to explore an idea… express a feeling… entertain an audience. When I first began writing seriously, it was as part of therapy… the fourth“E”… exorcism. As painful as that often was, what I came to refer to as “Dr. Kay’s torture” helped me to develop beyond the rudimentary skills left over from my formal education, and gave me a certain confidence that perhaps I was not as “literately-challenged” as I had once thought.
I write primarily noir fiction, dark and twisted stories of not-so-nice people doing not-so-nice things to one another. I am told that I do a “fair job” at writing in this genre. I could blame my ‘predilection’ with crime and noir on the influences of Carole Parker and Paul Brazill, but that wouldn’t be fair to them. They weren’t my only influences. And of course, I completely blame Lily Childs for getting me on the horror/urban fantasy ‘bandwagon’… even if it’s only been in hundred word flash bursts so far.
Richard Godwin, author of Apostle Rising, Mr. Glamour [and TONS of other writings] and a friend and mentor, asked me this in an interview –
Is there a particular incident that has changed your life and influenced your writing?
In the waning days of the summer of 2005, on my way to morning classes at university, I was kidnapped and for the next six months, I endured brutalities that would have made the Marquis de Sade vomit on his bedclothes.
I know it’s a little fucked up… hell, it’s a lot fucked up… but that’s pretty much why I write mostly dark noir and not children’s stories. You don’t go through something like that and walk away without a few scars and if my writing reveals some of those scars… well, maybe that’s just the way it is supposed to be. Six years of therapy and two years of writing noir fiction have quieted my demons… for the most part.
Sometimes I wonder if my writing will eventually erase those memories, at least some of them. And then there are times when I am afraid that is exactly what will happen and I think maybe I should just put my pen away. Sometimes I wonder if the madness wouldn’t be better than the memories.
Yeah, like I said… a little fucked up.
So it came to be that in August of 2010, I turned from writing in my personal journals about those dark days I had endured five years earlier and the horrors and demons that… * cue ominous music*… very nearly claimed my life, and penned my first noir fiction story… about 10,000 words of fiction ironically titled ‘Revenge Will Wait For Another Day’.
I shared ‘Revenge…’ with a few friends but never submitted it for publication, either online or in print. My first ‘published’ story was a short little 800 word flash piece for Patti Abbott’s “Scarry Night” Challenge. Penance was part fiction and part auto-biographical. It would not be the last story that I would write in which I drew on those six dark months of captivity. I have already written a little of that ordeal and its aftermath, in two other short stories, both non-fiction… Nyquil Dreams (which appeared in Pulp Metal Magazine), and Hello Darkness, My Old Friend. Several flash fiction pieces that I have written for F3 were influenced by that ordeal. I am currently on the third draft of my memoir, which will tell ‘the rest of the story’; as I believe Paul Harvey used to say.
What inspires me?
What doesn’t? Haha!
The prompts on Flash Fiction Friday are always fantastic and have given me much inspiration. F3 has helped me hone my craft and the people who ‘hang out’ there are amazing and very supportive. They inspire me as well. Unfortunately, the demands of life and several writing projects have kept me away from F3 lately.
A great place for inspiration can be found on any of the social networks. On Facebook alone, I have gotten inspiration for several stories.
A writer friend made a comment once about the unseasonably warm weather and problems with the AC. Someone else remarked that she worried about the power going out (brownouts) and all the ice cream in the freezer melting. I turned that into a 4,000 word story on obsession.
Another Facebook friend and I were discussing what we might do if a lover betrayed us. From a little ‘vignette’ I suggested, Revenge Will Wait For Another Day was born.
I also watch people. I ride mass transit a lot and I have met some very interesting people. I’ve also observed some ‘very interesting’ people. Conservatively, half of the fiction I have written was inspired by someone I encountered, a bit of conversation overheard – sorry, apparently my ears don’t have an ‘off’ switch, or some other such random act of human nature. A chance encounter with a streetwalker (have you ever been asked for a ‘date’?) kindled the fires of my imagination and led to One Man’s Burden, a twist on Jack the Ripper.
I look at people and I observe their reactions… and I say “what if”? That staid, straight and undoubtedly celibate (yeah, watch the eyes) nun on the train? Let’s make her a roller-blading, poker playing lesbian nun who teaches in the orphanage pre-school when she isn’t traveling to Las Vegas to meet her lesbian lover showgirl and fleece some high-rollers out of their money. It’s for the kids, don’t worry… Sister Veronica does have her morals!
It isn’t just strangers that give me inspiration… that feed the dark and sometimes wicked ‘turnings’ of my mind. When it comes to fiction, family, friends and co-workers are ‘fair game’. Even one’s own spouse needn’t be spared, as evidenced in Late Isn’t Always A Bad Thing and Non Sequitur.
I wrote two stories which dealt with domestic abuse, specifically, spousal abuse. Without divulging confidentiality, This Is How You Remind Me and Mothers and Daughters drew on events in the lives of two people very close to me.
To varying degrees; I put myself in some of my stories. Physical attributes, sexual orientation and obsessions… all things used to build characters. Like me; many of my female characters are strong, independent, goal-oriented women with a strong sense of justice… even if their actions sometimes indicate the contrary. Justice isn’t always found in what the law says is ‘right’.
We are told to ‘write what you know’. I know me… I know what I want… I know how I will react in a situation… I project that into some of my characters. It also allows me to engage in a little fantasy, as seen in Revenge Will Wait For Another Day.
Some might think that my ordeal gives me an ‘edge’ in writing… a reservoir of emotions and memories to tap into… it does; I won’t deny that. My lesbianism and views on feminism also influence my writing.
We all have experiences… crosses to bear… burdens to carry… that determine to a certain extent how we live our lives. Those things that influence my writing also allow me to put them in some perspective. For me, it’s all part of a process.
We write what we see… we write what we do… we write not to be alone.
We spend our whole life trying, with varying degrees of success, to be more than the sum of the parts of our lives. That is human nature.
Writing allows us to be more than the sum of those parts…
~finis~Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Portland, Oregon 4 September 2012