A year ago, I wrote a one-page story based on an incident in my childhood. Then I wrote two more. These stories, I decided, were the beginning of a longer story, maybe even a novella. Twenty pages in, I quit. The story was too fragmented, too disjointed. And the child, his voice, his naiveté, annoyed me to no end.
I chopped the “novella” into a few smaller pieces, tossing out several pages of fluff, and began to write more, though maybe it’s that I was writing less. As I wrote, the stories switched back into short, contained pieces, flash. I felt secure in this, relieved that I didn’t have to find my way around a plot that hadn’t been working, and it made sense. I was borrowing from my own life, my past, which I see in episodic glances. Writing smaller, contained pieces felt right. Flash enabled me to dig deeper into the child’s psyche, to explore events, real or imagined, outside the timeline of a single narrative. Fiction granted me the freedom to fill in events I couldn’t recall.
I wrote one story per day, drafting them in quick one or two page spurts. With each story, the child began to seem less naïve, more complex. I was still annoyed by him, and I didn’t want to know him, not even his name. In order to get past my annoyance, I had to separate myself from him. As I revised, I changed more details, moving further from the facts of my life.
I ended up with fifteen pieces. The opening story, “Wind,” is based on a night during a Boy Scout campout I went to in the Texas Hill Country, a night I knew I would die. Before the storm, I, like the child in the story, was angry that my mother was at the campout. I wanted to roughhouse and wander off the campsite with the other boys. I tapped into this anger as I wrote.
The more I wrote, the more the narrator began to feel like his own person, though I still never learned his name. The adults around him refer to him as “child.” Of course I felt a need to change that, to turn him into someone less annoying, but I decided to leave it, to allow him to grapple with the complexity of children recognizing how little control they have.