Friday, January 30, 2009

Does This Stuff Run In Families?

Being a writer is great if you really can make a living at it. Otherwise it's an addiction, never adequately sated. You don't learn to be a writer. You can learn the craft, but I don't believe you can learn the underlying drive, the thing that keeps you telling stories. Either you're stuck with the storyteller thing, or you're blessedly free.

Clearly, I'm stuck with it. And unfortunately, it's starting to look like the Elder Son is stuck with it too. By his age - eight - I was already reading full-length novels and composing stories of my own. Of course, I used pencils and exercise pads, but times have changed. Elder Son has been sitting down at his mother's laptop and pecking away, one finger at a time.

Gotta get him to learn to type. He hates trying, but he's just gonna have to suck it up.

Meanwhile, with his permission, here's:

Terry Anderson the Bug Buster
"Chip" Flinthart, age 8

Well, it all started one night when I accidentally left the toilet light on. Quite a light and bright night, quite a long one too. The next morning I got up and there were heaps of biting bugs there.

“Oh no this isnt going to be good” because I didn't notice them until I got into the toilet because I am sort of woozy in the morning.

I went on the toilet seat but unaware to me there was a wasp on it and it stung me on the bum.

“Yow!” I said as I flew off the toilet seat. Then the other bugs started to attack. The march flies swarmed me while the really weird wasps start to swoop at me. I eventually got out but I knew I had to get a plan. I couldn't let those bugs take over the toilet. I didn't want my bum stinged and I didn't think I could hold on much longer.

I went over the the washing machine where there was a pile of supplies.

“Mmm fly spray, good. Underarm deoderant, good. Bath bombs, good”.

I spotted a big piece of ice in the ice bag.

I brought it with me into the toilet and took a few chunks off. Then threw a few at a swarm of marchflies.Crash! One window broke. I took another chunk off and threw it at some moths. Crash! The window didn't get broken but the wall got dented. I threw another piece. Crash! The wall got dented again. This was getting no where. These bugs, they were very, very agile, and I mean AGILE! So instead I used my bath bombs to turn into mist and try to choke the bees and bugs and things. But something bad happened. The bugs were not easily choked by that so I tried deodorant and washing powder that I just found on the floor. Also something else, something very bad - insecticide. I added a few more things like perfume and things like that. Then the whole toilet room was filled with smog but I couldn't keep on spraying so I put bricks on the sprayers and just kept on spraying.

It looked like my job was all done but later it looked like I forgot that I had toxically smogged up the toilet room with perfumes and stuff. I jumped right in and almost got choked to death. I desperately grabbed the hairdryer and blew a safety circle around me and that was not good cause standing there were my parents.

“What have you done to that room!”

So I just stood there and thought “ Yep, they are going to kill me – again”.


That's pretty much verbatim. He got a little help with quote marks, and some stern advice from his mum about staying in the same tense, but other than that it's all his. It's based at least partly on the results of the night before last. We usually leave the toilet light on for the little ones in the middle of the night, but with the warm weather, there were a host of insects in there the next morning, much to the horror of the kids.

What I like about this story is that it has all the right elements: a problem to be solved, a protagonist who actually gets involved to solve the problem with his own actions and decisions, a complication which ensues as a result of his efforts -- it even has a real ending, in which the consequences of his decisions and actions rebound upon him.

It's not literary genius, but I promise you this much: I have seen and rejected worse from the Andromeda Spaceways Slushpile, and even from the submissions to Canterbury 2100. And though I'm embarrassed to admit it, I think structurally it works better than the stuff I was writing at his age...

...poor little beggar.


Satima Flavell said...

Yup, great stuff! I hope he keeps it up. One of my children used to write great stories as a kid but now he doesn't even read:-(

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Great stuff and written with style.

I know what you mean, Dirk. It's like when my daughter came to me and said she wanted to be a jazz singer. How could I tell her No, when I followed my heart?

Our society doesn't value the creatives.

Cheers, R.

Flinthart said...

It's horrible, really. And I meet so many people who say: "Oh, you're a writer? Oh! I've been meaning to write a book..."

And then they tell me all about it, which is fine, but they always ask if I think they should write it. And these days, all I can say is: "Well... can you imagine spending the rest of your life without writing that book?"

And if they answer - as most do! - "Ummm... yes. I suppose so," then I just say:

"You're very lucky. Have a good life."

I hope your daughter makes a great jazz singer, Rowena. And I hope my kid gets to write all the stories that are floating around in his head, if that's what he wants to do.

And wouldn't it be nice if there was a way they could both do that and eat?

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Yes. I used to make a 'starving' as a children's book illustrator. :->

Writing has meant I've been able to stay home with my children, which I really value.

But it would be nice if society appreciated creative people, whether they were artists, musicians, writers or scientists.

I tell my kids about ancient Greece, where philosophers were celebrities and got invited to dinner and followed down the street.

Cheers, R.