Vampires! And Werewolves! And Halloween! Oh my!
Last week I talked about my first foray, as a kid, into the great vampire/werewolf rivalry, and how the completion of that story was a real step for me in regards to understanding the reality of the writer. Today I want to touch on another story I wrote back then, and how it was important to a different element of my formation as a writer.
Grade seven: Halloween. We had to write a Halloween story for English, and I decided to kill off all my classmates.
Yup, I did away with them. The story was called (I believe) O Hallow's Eve, and it was about a Pumpkin-headed specter who invaded the school. The specter went on to murder everyone in the class. Each student got a unique (and somewhat gruesome) death, and I spared no one (including myself).
Luckily I was a friendly, well-liked and well-adjusted sort of kid, so instead of sending me for counselling the teacher decided the story should be read aloud to the class. And, as it turned out, everyone loved hearing about their own dismemberment (especially the boys). Who knew?
Well, I suppose I did, even then. Or at least I suspected, and hoped. In the back of my head I was aware of the idea of audience, of playing to the crowd.
The act of writing is interesting, really. It is, at times, singular in its loneliness. A writer, typing away at a computer, a solitary task that spins itself out day after day. And, in truth, I firstly (and mostly) write for myself. I write not to explain something but to explore something, to discover something for myself. Writing, to me, is as much about the process as the product.
And yet we can't ignore the product. And while the process, I think, is always relevant, for a product to find relevance it needs an audience. Writing is an act of communication: first with oneself, and then with others. We try to speak something, give something, share something.
The sense of someone listening, of a meaning shared, is important. I think that's one of the attractive things about blogs: their interactivity, the sense of an immediate connection, and immediate response. Contact is narrowed between reader and writer.
And O Hallow's Eve was my first sense of that contact, and indeed contract, between reader and writer. The rush of response, of having made a connection. Everyone in my class had been so excited by that story. In hearing my teacher read it I could see a sort of joy in my classmates, a sense of suspense, of anticipation. Who was gonna get it next? And how?
I think that desire remains. I write first for myself; I look and search and hopefully find. But then I have something complete. I want to share it. I'm looking, I guess, for a response. Adulation doesn't hurt, of course, but even more I want a connection, I want someone to feel something. A story is something shared, an experience felt by many that creates a common ground. There's a sense of community --even if the readership is large, faceless and invisible. The words are like radio waves, spreading out, speaking into the darkness of each night as the world spins through day upon day.
Even murder can make friends.
What about you? What was your first experience with an audience? How did it affect your writing?