This post is approximately 950 words.
Writing isn’t just about the final piece, the story you want readers to consume. It’s also about the writer herself. Or himself, in my case. If I’m bored out of my gourd, the process will be a tremendous slog, and I’ll probably never finish. But if the idea feels fresh or unusual – or requires me to do interesting research – it can be as effortless as breathing.
In this post, beyond the typical short piece of fiction I just write until the energy fades, I thought I’d list some of my motivations for exercises like this. Especially since the resulting stories are unrelated to my current manuscript. And at the end of the post, I’ve written out some ideas on the piece. It’s an evaluation of sorts, to help me determine whether I breathe additional life into the idea.
The writing exercises…
- Allow me to practice my craft
- Give me a break from the manuscript
- Expand an intriguing concept to see if it can stand on its own
- Capture an idea before it disappears forever
- Entertain me
Let’s see if the following piece does those things.
Child of the Caldera
September 9, 2017 – Jakarta, Indonesia
“Three weeks have passed since Mt. Meracellus exploded, ravaging the island of Ruhlu Benda and causing havoc across the region. A plume estimated to be thirty-five kilometers high has dominated the skies of Southeast Asia and deposited ash nearly a thousand miles away. Tsunamis have killed thousands of people in Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, with reports of damage coming from India, China, Korea, and Japan. Stories from as far away as Australia and Hawaii tell of black waves of dead sea life hitting their shores, the poisoned remnants of the volcano’s death.
“The size and location have drawn comparisons to other massive eruptions, such as Krakatoa, Indonesia (1893) and Mount Pinatubo, Philippines (1991), where death tolls were estimated to be 50,000 – 100,000 people.
“Rumblings had been heard for weeks, though they were largely dismissed since the volcano had a long history of seismic activity, like many volcanoes within the so-called Ring of Fire, which encircles the Pacific Ocean from New Zealand around to the west coasts of the Americas.
“Volcanologist Dr. Jae Ramapurthy, who had been studying the area for nearly twenty years has been largely criticized by the international community and censured by the Geological College of India for his failure to give proper warning to the disaster. While he has not been seen since the explosion, his colleague Dr. Miranda Jones, British ex-pat and longtime friend, has vehemently defended him, claiming that his warnings were largely ignored by government and intelligentsia alike. She fears he was killed in the blast, though she admits his schedule placed him in India at the time, where he was supposed to be visiting family for the Independence Day holiday. According to the family, he never arrived.
“It is not the death and destruction that has continued to captivate the world, however. After two weeks of adverse atmospheric conditions that prohibited satellite photos and safe helicopter reconnaissance, an Indonesian research team made an unbelievable discovery within the enormous caldera created by the volcano’s collapse.
“A naked teenage boy partially buried within a crust of hardened lava.
“Of undetermined origin or nationality, ‘Shiva’, as the boy has been nicknamed after the Hindu god of destruction, remains catatonic in a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Covered with livid marks and black stains that do not wash away, doctors have been unable to make any diagnosis on his condition.”
Father John put down his newspaper and looked over at the boy making breakfast. “Hey Merryweather. This lad looks just like you.”
The idea started with a boy being found in the caldera and skipped immediately to the doppelganger. I had little concept of details or the newspaper story.
Here are some thoughts on the piece, which you might also have had.
- I find the doppelganger mystery fascinating. However, I don’t yet have a sense of how long the manuscript could be: somewhere in between a short story and a novella, I expect.
- I don’t think it’s clear that someone was reading a paper until the end
- Does a character named ‘Father John’ imply a religious angle to the story? Likewise, they name the kid after a Hindu god. Is that coincidence, prophetic, or what?
- The writing isn’t pretty, which is fine for a rough draft. I’d be surprised if 50% of it survived the second draft.
- The mysterious boy – how did he get there and end up in that condition? Did he cause the eruption or is he a victim?
- The island’s name seems appropriate to the region, yet the volcano’s name feels incongruous. Interesting? Maybe. Relevant to the story, probably not, unless there is some East-meets-West theme there. Which I seem to have suggested with the relationship of the two doctors. Huh.
- ‘Caldera’ is a somewhat familiar, yet exotic word, and people might need to think on its meaning for a moment. That could intrigue them or turn them off.
- I’ll need to do a lot of research on volcanoes, which is fine because I love to learn. I’m not even sure if an eruption in this location would have the worldwide devastation I described.
I probably have a dozen other thoughts, which is considerable for a 410-word piece. But the point of this post isn’t to serve as a journal; it is to illustrate the things that I’m considering when I’m reviewing something I’ve written.
Sometimes, writing is simply sitting down at the keyboard. But more often, it neither starts nor ends with a keystroke.
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© Michael Wallevand, January 2017