Tag: behind the vignette (Page 1 of 3)

Behind the Vignette: IN THE DARK WHERE ALL IS LOST

Click on the picture above to read the story.

I struggled with whether or not to publish this story. I wrote it in response to my deepest fear after my son was born: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For the first several months of his life I was downright paranoid about it. That calmed once he learned to roll over and became more dexterous because now I’m confident that if he couldn’t breathe for whatever reason he’d be able to maneuver enough to at least cry out for help. But there are still times when I’ll go into his nursery while he sleeps and gently place my palm against his back or chest to be sure he’s breathing okay.

Writing, and then publishing, our fears makes us vulnerable. There is a lot of vulnerability in this story, which is why I was hesitant to put it up. But there is also a triggering effect. As awful as it is, lots of people have lost children to all sorts of things and have had to move on, somehow. I’m not sure there’s any understanding or relief in this story. It’s built from fear and ends in devastation. I don’t know how I feel about that.

In the end I think it’s important for me to be vulnerable with my fears. By putting it into the world I’m acknowledging that vulnerability and hoping to commiserate with others. I don’t know, it’s strange to write from a place of darkness and be unable to find any light. But there is a place for it, I think. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to say how things are, recognize that bad things happen randomly, for no reason, and then move on from it. Hug someone a little tighter the next time you see them, just as I hug my son every day.

Behind the Vignette: CUSTOM OF THE SEA

Click the photo above to read the story first!

The idea for this story came from one of my favorite pastimes, listening the Aaron Mahnke’s Lore podcast. Specifically, episode 122: The Shortest Straw. In this episode, Mahnke details various acts of cannibalism throughout history, including the saga of the English yacht “The Mignonette.” I was fascinated by what it might feel like to be in the position that eating someone you know might keep you alive long enough to get back to your family.

That said, the story didn’t come easily. I wrote it once, didn’t like it, let it sit for a long time, revisited it and liked it more than I remembered, rewrote it, let it sit, did an edit, etc. The reason for that was twofold:

  1. Whose perspective should the story take? A crew members? The person being eaten? Someone doing the eating?
  2. What tone should the story take? Horrific? Regretful? Melancholic?

Ultimately, I settled on the Captain making a horrific and melancholic decision to sacrifice himself for his crew. Part of me feels like I should have played into the horror aspects of the act more, but I also suspect that’s because I’m on a horror kick in my reading life. I think the approach I take in this story is the more interesting, human one, and better for me as a writer.

What do you think? Would you have liked to see it written differently? Let me know in the comments.

Behind the Vignette: METTLE

I’ve alluded to this a couple of times before on this blog, but my senior year of high school I spent a night in jail. A friend of mine found the key to a room that held old, unused laptops that were ostensibly meant for the teachers but never given out for some reason. He took one, and then another, and then slowly started to hand them out. I went into the room, but never physically took one. No, as the only one of my friends with a car (and the person who drove them to school), my role was the transporter.

Word got around school and people started to ask for them. As far as I know, money only exchanged hands on one occasion, but that was enough that someone outside of our friend group (I honestly don’t remember his name at this point) decided to blackmail us. He threatened that if we didn’t give him one he would blow us in. Which was dumb because we weren’t selling them. If he just asked nicely he probably could have gotten one for free.

Regardless, we balked at the idea and so he ratted us out. I was in the television studio (I went to an arts school) when school security came to get me and searched my SUV, where they found a single bookbag with one laptop in it. From there I was interrogated, where they tried to pit me against my friends (“They’ve already told us about you, so you should just spill everything on them,”) and then called the actual police.

The cops were nice about it. They didn’t handcuff us until we were away from the school and did their best to minimize our embarrassment. I think they understood how ridiculous the situation was.

The rest of it played out similarly to the story. We were processed and spent the entire day in the holding pen, until we were each moved to our own individual cells. It was cold, and we weren’t allowed blankets because you can hang yourself with them. Which is dumb, because there are plenty of ways to kill yourself in a cell without a blanket.

We were all released the next day. I was suspended from school for a long while and had to attend night classes at a different school to do busy work. The principal of our school wanted to pursue grand larceny charges–I guess as a deterrent to other students?–but no one seemed to take that seriously. The computers weren’t even worth that much, and I think there was recognition that saddling us with such serious charges was unfair at our ages. We were sentenced to community service that we did together over the summer. After a few years our records were expunged.

The repercussions we faced were ultimately minor, so the lessons I took from the experience were more personal. I realized how much inner strength I actually had when I needed it. And I saw how unfair our education and justice systems could be. I felt the disappointment of some of my teachers and learned which ones actually deeply cared about me.

In that sense, I have no regrets. In fact, I think everyone should go through something like that. Something that tests you, pushes you to an extreme, shows you a different side of the world and the people in it. Those situations are the ones that we learn the most from, and the ones that stick with us the longest.

Behind the Vignette: CLICHÉD GOODBYE

The idea for this vignette is based on two things: 1) emotions I experienced moving away from my hometown nearly ten years ago and 2) a desire to write something inclusive, from a perspective other than my own.

I remember the days and weeks leading up to my leaving. It really felt like the end of something, and I wasn’t sure at the time if I was ready for it to end. My roommate moved out of our apartment and I stood in his room and cried. I had a pow-wow with my closest friends at my going-away party where we reminisced and ignored the other people celebrating. But what stayed with me was how quickly it felt like things moved on without me. I remember giving one of my best friends a hug goodbye as I packed up my truck to go and it felt like there was an attitude of, “Welp, bye.” That’s not to say he didn’t care or wasn’t feeling emotional, it’s just to say that sometimes in life there are goodbyes that feel underwhelming.

The second thing I wanted to attempt with this vignette was to write about romantic love from a perspective that isn’t well-represented. Love is love, and I want to write characters from all different walks of life that shows that. As a straight, middle-class white guy, my feelings on my place in portraying minority characters are complicated, but I also believe that people are people, and should be written as such. Yes, we all have nuances to our personalities, cultural differences that are difficult to capture without being fully immersed, but there are elements of the human experience that are universal. Like friends leaving to pursue the next chapter of their lives. And young, tentative love.

Behind the Vignette: A NIGHT NOT TO END

Click on the photo above to be taken to the story before reading this post.

When I was in my early twenties there were parties to go to every weekend. And if there wasn’t a party, there were bars on every other corner (usually the ones not already occupied by a church) in Buffalo. Some of my favorite memories of that time in my life, insofar as I have memories of those nights, was the unplanned and unexpected conversations with strangers. I loved sitting at a filthy, beer-stained and ash-littered table in some small apartment getting to know someone.

I remember often feeling like I never wanted the night to end, especially if a cute girl was involved.

I think that feeling of wishing a night could go on forever is a pretty universal feeling. But, like anything we might wish, what are the actual consequences of that wish coming true?

In this story I tried to explore that. The elation, confusion, horror, and resignation that realizing a night will continue as long as you want it. I hope it captured some of those feelings for you.

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