What if you could steal the final moments from the dying? What if you had the darkest secret, but couldn’t think what it might be? What if you entered the forest in the deep of the night. Who is the melting man? And are your neighbours really whom they appear to be?
So many questions.
To find the answers, you must enter a darker place. Thirteen stories. Thirteen poems. Thirteen more doorways.
Once upon a time. All the best stories begin that way, don’t they?
Well, I did actually begin a story exactly that way, and it became one of my best pieces, I believe, but, from such humble beginnings, where does the path come from? What defines the windy way your ideas take to the final full stop (period)?
I know some people outline their work. Such outlines range from a vague plot and character summary to a defined plan for each chapter and everything up to the characters’ inside leg measurements. Major dramatic sequences are drafted, then the meat is added till the fatted calf is ready to take its first wobbly steps out into the big wide world.
With Mr. Composure, a story I was commissioned to write for NBC Universal and Wattpad for the release of the movie The Purge: Anarchy, I struggled. Often, ideas will come to me at any old time. I’ll hear a snippet of a song or something will catch my eye on the TV. For my latest story (apart from working on Mortal Sin), my 3 year old girl told me about the imaginary friend who was standing right beside me and whom I could keep FOREVER!
Dum Dum DUMMMMM.
One night, my wife was struggling to sleep and asked me to tell her a story. As I was trying to force an idea for the Purge jobby, my mind was, basically, mush. So my wife uttered the words I’ve began this post with: “Once upon a time. All the best stories begin that way, don’t they?”
That was it. That was the beginning to Mr. Composure. And, after I’d written those words (and the rest of the opening, which flowed immediately, I also wrote the last line. I had no idea whether I’d be able to actually reach that last line, or if my mind would take me on a completely different path, but I could hope. Luckily, my mind and my hope were seemingly having a chat and a Costa Coffee latte at the time, so wandered along together, their goal being my own.
But… What about Darker Places? What about paths and meanderings and plots? Well, yes. I have to confess, with most of the stories and poems, I had no idea where I was going. For some, I was aided by an old school friend who now lives in Australia. She had writing prompts from her own writing group and she’d occasionally send them to me. It worked well, as her writing is uplifting and inspirational, and I deal with shadows and death. It was a nice contrast. But she’d send me these prompts, such as a first line or a theme, and I’d write. And I’d just run with it – or it would run and I’d be chasing behind, panting.
For one, Stolen Moments, I had an idea a long time ago. Or the idea of an idea (it was fairly vague). I did write a story based on that idea, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I was as if I needed to get it out and it didn’t really matter how. Of course, when that story didn’t really do what I wanted it to, the idea stayed with me.
A couple of years ago I saw Bon Jovi in concert. He had a fab support in the form of James Walsh, ex of group Starsailor. James sang a song called ‘Precious Stolen Moments’ and the idea – which wasn’t really linked, initially – and his song merged somewhere in the back of my mind. And started quietly eating away at me. It wasn’t until I was writing the entries in Darker Places that I finally brought t to the fore and tried to give it the attention it deserved. Stolen Moments, I think and hope, does do that.
Other inspirations which stand out for me are The Crow because, when you’re given the opening line “The bird fell and the sky was silent,” you really can’t let that go and Home, because I got to kill off my old school friends.
I did ask them first…
Once upon a time. All the best stories begin that way, don’t they? They might, but where they end is anyone’s guess!
A writer of many prize winning short stories and poems, Shaun Allan has written for more years than he would perhaps care to remember. Having once run an online poetry and prose magazine, he has appeared on Sky television to debate, against a major literary agent, the pros and cons of internet publishing as opposed to the more traditional method. Many of his personal experiences and memories are woven into Sin’s point of view and sense of humour although he can’t, at this point, teleport.
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