Writer’s Circle (of Friends)

My friends and I have a pretty acerbic repartee that is as hard to follow as it is friendly. We aren’t bad people, despite what you might hear us say about each other. Besides, we know each other’s emotional kryptonite if it ever comes to friendship ending-hatred and we know to steer clear of these points. For the record, the first clue to my emotional kryptonite can be found by unscrambling select letters in this blog post.

In fact, most of the stuff we say to one another is pretty harmless (except for when we play board games). You know who are vicious? Anonymous people on the internet.

If you don’t know what I mean:

  1. What wonderful plane of existence do you live on?
  2. It is my sworn duty to ruin to ruin your happiness by showing you any comment section. Ever.

Alright it’s not always bad.

Once, I happened upon one of these  rare not awful corners of the internet. It was a strange place. A place of imagination. A place called LitReactor.

I don’t know how I ended up in this magic place, but appreciated being able to speak with like-minded storytellers far removed from the  infinitely awful wasteland of trolls.

It’s a pretty great site with essays on writing from established authors, including Chuck Palahniuk, forums, workshops, and writing exercises.

For Halloween last year, they featured a rather spooky contest which appealed to my love of Lovecraft. The contest – which I was grossly late to apply to – said to write a short story, based on an original monster in your hometown with a minimum body count of 3.

Before I came up with a monster, I came up with a fear from my memory like a creeping horror. One night when I was little, I had a bad dream and thought to ease my mind by going to my parents. This was no small feat as I had to make the long trek through an old farm house. However familiar it was during the day, at night it was full of sounds and shadows. I crept out of my bedroom in the dark, running my hands along the wall for support. I knew that I wouldn’t get much light until the bottom of the stairs where the cracked window of the old porch door let in the street light. I hugged the wall as I descended, sure to keep my feet away from the gaps in the bannister’s spindles in case there was something ready to reach up and grab me. I made it to the bottom, but felt very exposed turning my back to the old door. I stupidly looked outside into the night to where at the end of the lane a shadowy figure stood.

In the daylight it was, of course, the Ilex tree that grew out from the hedge and spread its prickly leaves on the lawn. At night, it would always be that shadowy thing watching for me.

So that was the fear, but what was the monster? I weeded through the memories of my childhood until I recall the unpleasant time I came across a rotting salmon. It had washed up on the bank of the dyke amongst the bulrushes and skunk cabbage only to be discovered by my dog. He immediately began to eat it and unleashed the most pungent, gag-inducing smell upon the world.

I probably could’ve pulled him away, but my constitution wouldn’t let me get within ten feet of it. So I seethed and waited until my dog ate enough of it to make himself sick. After rolling in both the dog vomit and salmon, he’d had enough and I could walk him home.

It only took a few hours to write The Bogmar after merging these two memories and I was pretty excited to post it for others to read. In my eagerness, however, I didn’t really do a good job editing it. I was too close to it, to high on the rush of having written something that wasn’t garbage to stop and think that maybe it might be a little bit garbage.

That’s where my friends come in. I passed it around to a few of my readers and on LitReactor and while people liked it. It was far from perfect. Aside from pointing out the typos, a common problem when writing late at night, they had some really constructive feedback. They knew what didn’t work for them and there’s no arguing with them on that point. I didn’t change everything (they probably won’t like absolutely everything) but I did take it to heart and made revisions.

I haven’t shared the second version because to be honest it’s more of a story for me. It’s a good place to go when I need inspiration. It’s moody and takes me home to a dark and foggy place. Most importantly, it proves to me that I’m not entirely bad at this, especially when I look back on the original.

So for this Craft Wednesday I recommend checking out LitReactor and more importantly, start looking at people you know who will be honest with you. Their critiques will make you a stronger writer, just don’t let them tell you you’re garbage. Maybe you should also have a cheerleader in case you’re feeling down and need someone to revive your emotionally devastated husk.

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