The Undertakers 5: End of the Word by Ty Drago
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
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Author Guest Post- Where Do You Get Inspiration For Your Writing?
They’re everywhere. They fill every room in every house in every town I visit. They’re on the streets. They’re in the parks. I see them in the roll of the ocean and on the tops of mountains peaks. I know this sounds melodramatic, maybe even a bit corny. But I do. I see them everywhere. I always have.
Sometimes the stories have characters in the form of people, either friends or strangers, doing something that strikes me as usable, as “tellable.” Other times there are no characters at all – just a place, maybe beautiful, maybe ugly, but always with some tiny detail, some small incongruity that catches my eye and makes me think, “There’s a story there.”
Does that make any sense to you? Can you relate? My own family scratches their collective head at the notion. My wife Helene, ever supportive of my writing and the best friend I’ve ever had, is a scientist who sees what’s right in front of her, as a scientist should. She doesn’t see the stories. But that’s okay, because she long ago accept that I do, and that’s been enough for her over the course of our 25-year marriage.
Even so, she doesn’t quite “get” it.
“If you do, then you’re probably a writer or, more to the point, a storyteller.
I’ve literally been a storyteller all my life. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t. There are so many stories out there, and they want to be told. That’s the thing. All stories want to be told. More than that, they deserve to be told. But there are so many of them. I can’t tell them all.
That’s not to say I haven’t tried.
I started storytelling when I was three, before I knew how to read. What’s that look like? Well, I’ve seen the old photographs, and apparently it looks like a fat little boy with clothes on sitting on his living room floor with a piece of paper and a crayon scribbling like a madman. Then, I’m told, I would hold up my masterpiece and proudly announce something like “cow!”
After which my father would say to my mother, “I think there’s something wrong with this child.”
But in my head, I was telling a story.
Later in my childhood, I “graduated” to authoring comic books – badly, badly drawn comic books. These mostly centered on a group of kid superheroes that I called at the time “The Kid Kidets. The alliteration was accidental, as I was eight-years-old and didn’t know how to spell “cadets.” The Kid Kidets had all the typical superpowers and dwelt in a vast tower hidden beneath the ice of Antarctica (I have no idea why). Whenever trouble brewed, the entire building would crash up out of the ice (poor engineering … and vaguely phallic, if I’m to be completely honest), and the Kid Kidets would sally forth into the world to right all wrongs.
This went on for years in hundreds of badly drawn comic books. I shared these with my friends who, since it was the sixties and we didn’t have the internet or video games yet, seems to appreciate them.
Around high school is when I started writing the stories down, started become a “writer.”
I penned my first full-length novel at seventeen. It sucked. I penned my second and third in college. They sucked, too. I wrote scores of short stories, most of which sucked. I was learning. I took very few class on writing, and the ones I did take didn’t really work for me. Too many creative writing classes try to teach you how others write, rather than let you explore your own voice and style. So I taught myself and I remember being somewhat astonished when I discovered that most of the literary tricks I’d come up with already had names: “dramatic irony,” “symmetry,” “allegory,” “metaphor.” You get the idea.
But I was definitely doing it the hard way.
As a result, I didn’t make my first sale until I was thirty, a short story. I actually cried, standing there at the mailbox with my five-year-old daughter asking me, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”
I didn’t sell my first novel, a historical mystery called The Franklin Affair, until I turned forty. I was married to my wife by then, and she’d become my first-read, my editor, and my biggest fan. Because of her, I never gave up and, because of her, I finally got to hold my first published book in my hand. It was small press; only 500 hundred copies were ever printed, all hardcover. But it was mine!
And it was only the beginning.
Now I’m fifty-five, with a total of seven published novels to my credit, one of which is being turned into a movie. And I’m far from done. When I visit middle schools, which I do a lot, one of the questions I’m most often asked is, “How long do you think you’ll keep writing.”
My answer is always the same, “I’ll stop writing when they pry the keyboard out of my cold, dead hands.” It usually gets me a laugh, which is the point. But it’s also true. Writing is like breathing to me, I could never stop doing one unless I stopped doing the other.
In the meantime, I had something of an epiphany a few years back.
My father, the same man who wondered at his child’s sanity back when I was a toddler, left this world back in 1992. I still miss him terribly. He was always so supportive of my writing, always took such pride in his admittedly peculiar son. But there was something about him that I never knew, or knew but never understood, not until many years after his death.
You see, he left behind these cassette tapes. This is absolutely 100% true. He was dying of cancer and so he took a tape recorder and recorded about a dozen tapes on which he laid out a story, a complete novel that we wanted me to consider writing. To date, I haven’t done so. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I don’t feel ready, or worthy, or capable. Perhaps someday. But that’s not the point.
I finally listened to those tapes, which went missing after his death and were only found a few years ago. A family mystery. But hearing his voice after all this time turned out to be both heart-wrenching and enlightening. It made me comprehend something about my father that, while it would have had zero impact on how much I loved the man, might have made us even closer.
My father saw the stories, too. He’s why I am what I am and do what I do.
I only wish I could thank him…