Influence, Confluence, and One Story Short

When I was a kid, maybe eight or nine, I discovered rap music.

My grandparents lived in Albuquerque at the time, and my family in California, so a couple of weeks out of the year, our parents would take my brother and me on long car rides across the American Southwest.

Yeah. You want to talk excitement for a kid of that age…almost twelve hours of blurry landscape outside of the car window. Of course, iDevices were still a twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye and we didn’t yet have a Nintendo Gameboy (I think that came a couple of Christmases later).

So how did I pass the time?

A black Sony Walkman, headphones with fuzzy orange earmuffs, and a Ziploc bag that I could never close because it held so many tapes.

It wasn’t all hip-hop, but the majority of it was. Run DMC, The Fat Boys, Ice T, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Public Enemy… I often wonder how my parents never confiscated half of my albums. I was fascinated with the drum machines, the guitar samples, and of course the variety of lyrical flow. At any given moment, it could have been Biz Markie, KRS One, or supergroup UTFO pumping into my ears. There was a style to fit every mood.

As I got older, my musical tastes branched out, but when I entered junior high and high school, my dad and I began spending a lot of time together watching science-fiction TV shows and movies. If memory serves, every Wednesday night, we’d sit down on the floor with a large paper sack filled with salted popcorn and blocks of sharp cheddar (sounds weird, I know, but try it) and catch the latest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. This carried over to Babylon 5, ST: Deep Space Nine, ST: Voyager, and so on.

I only occasionally listen to rap these days, but I still find myself mindlessly reciting the lyrics of Slick Rick’s (known then as MC Ricky D) and Doug E. Fresh’s La-Di-Da-Di. And when I visit my parents, my dad and I will usually catch whatever sci-fi flick is playing at the local theater, buckets of salted popcorn in our laps. Unfortunately, the theater industry hasn’t caught on to selling blocks of cheese as a condiment.

All of this to say such cumulative experience is pumping through my veins, alive and well, the confluence of which brought you yesterday’s story. Also, I wanted to show that I’m not always such a serious guy!

Now, an excerpt from the Obvious Files: You’ll notice that I didn’t complete my story this past week. I chalk this up to two things:

  1. Quite simply, I ran out of time. Now, I know I just got done preaching about the importance of making time. Let this be a lesson to you kids. I prioritized other things when I should have been more focused. So, lucky for me, I made the unconscious decision to deliver 52 stories in 52 weeks, not 1 story a week, for 52 weeks. That’s right. I’m still planning to hit that 52 by the end of the year, but now I have to squeeze it in somewhere.
  2. I didn’t plan this well enough. I really winged this one and though I think I mostly benefited from that, it shows that I didn’t have the idea scoped to fit a shorter narrative. You know, maybe it’s a good thing? I know I put constraints on myself to make these short stories, but sometimes happy accidents are happy indeed.

Oh, well. Life’s rough. But I’m having so much fun writing this story, I’m excited to see where my other influences conflue(?!).

How about you? Do you so visibly see your own life-experiences seeping into your creative work?

-Phillip

P.S. The story process post is forthcoming, but I won’t put it up until I’ve actually, you know, completed the process.

[Image courtesy of Wikimedia]

6 thoughts on “Influence, Confluence, and One Story Short”

  1. I also like rap music, especially the artists you mentioned.

    I can understand the lack of time. There are simply not enough hours in the day sometimes.

    I see a lot of influences from my childhood in my creative work. I played a lot of imaginative games when I was a kid. I also watched a lot of science fiction. So speculative fiction is in my blood.

    1. It’s funny, Linda. I don’t think I can write a story without some speculative element in it. I feel like a car that constantly veers to the right…too much effort to steer it straight. 😉

      That’s awesome that you also like many of the same artists. My car used to have Sirius XM radio (way too expensive, so I canceled) and there was an old-school rap channel that played all of those great songs.

  2. This is really interesting–cool to see how you put such different concepts together.

    I see the influence of my life-experiences all the time in my writing. Sometimes I consciously say to myself: “I’m going to write a story based on that time when…”

    But more often than not, I only realize in retrospect, as I’m re-reading a story I’ve written and something jogs my memory, and I go “Oh, hey–that’s like when… So that’s where that came from.”

    1. Yeah, I think most of my work has been the same way–it’s more of an unconscious thing and this is the first time I’ve had something really intentional that I wanted to write.

  3. Much of my childhood was spent the same way. Still remember my dad coming home from the local video store each weekend with the latest ST:TNG video tapes. Despite how ropey they are today, we still love them, and if I’m feeling down I grab an episode to watch (on digital, VHS has had its day). Then, when I went to Uni, I rang my dad after every episode of B5 (even season 5!). Even today, we FaceTime after watching new episodes of The Expanse and the like (although he’s more of a binge watcher these days and way ahead of me – retirement has spoilt him).

    Much of my reading comes from him too, both the sci fi and the fantasy, although I take credit for getting him into Jack Reacher and some Urban Fantasy books (“Magic. In London. Nope, not reading that.”) He regularly blames me for his love of ‘those kids shows’ Buffy and Angel.

    I find much of my setting comes from those loves, but as I’m getting older–and maybe its my lack of attention span–the themes seem to come much more from where I am in my life now. There’s a lot of my current frustration at my day job eking into my characters at the moment. Even some of the sci fi I wrote a couple of years encapsulated some of the potential directions I saw my job (and hence the world, as I am at the centre of it, obviously…) going.

    I loved this story. I didn’t ‘get it’ at first, not like your others, but you quickly established a setting that drew me in. Once you figure out the story I agree that you’ll cut some stuff, the odd sentence here and there – but I don’t think you have as much work to do as you possibly think.

    Long comment. Short version: Great story, great post about the story, and I’m looking forward to part two.

    1. That’s fantastic that you still have such a close bond with your dad over the TV shows and books. My dad is a huge fantasy reader as well, so I also get some of that element from him.

      I hear you on the influences changing over time as well. I assume it’s because we deal with a much wider world as adults than we ever did as kids and then there are those decades of painful experiences adding up.

      I always appreciate your honest feedback on my stories. I know that since I’m pretty much using each one as a sort of experimentation, not every story is going to resonate with everyone. It’s one of those mantras that we all know, or think we know — can’t please all the people all the time — but I’ve found putting that into practice is another thing altogether. Then there’s trying to find my voice, etc, etc.

      The key thing for me is all the fun I’ve been having. I wished I had done this sooner because I think I would have already found the groove that I’m now discovering.

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