Why I Write

I think for most people, their vocation or avocation usually derives from personal interest or enjoyment. A person enjoys helping children, so becomes a teacher. Somebody fascinated with ancient history studies to be an archeologist. If you grew up really wanting to solve people’s burning pee issue, then your earned your degree in urology.

For me, writing began because as an avid reader, I thought I also could write stories. I wanted to write the kind of quality novels I enjoyed. I wanted to entertain and pass along my enjoyment. Granted, the urologist makes people happy by helping their bathroom trips be more comforting and if he puts on a show while dispensing the medicine, he can fulfill the entertainment aspect of the business.

Anyway, as a child I started with skits and games and persuaded my sister to get involved. When I started reading mysteries (Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown), I tried my hand at writing short stories with a character I created named Sam P. Peterson. Everybody kept asking me what the P stood for and I never knew. I liked the name Sam and thought the full moniker sounded good. Sam was a police detective for the East Moline Police Department because, until the fifth grade, I lived in East Moline. I don’t remember how many shorts I wrote but the writing bug faded in junior high and high school.

In college, I took a writing class from a professor named (and this is true) Alison Allison. One of the assignments was to start a journal. You all know what a journal is: a sophisticated way to say diary. But girls have ‘diaries’; real writers have ‘journals.’ (Uh, do you believe that? Nah, didn’t think so.)

Well, my journal lasted for a long time and although I haven’t written in it for awhile, it still sits, waiting. Every now and then I think about it, and put down something. After college, I took a part time job as a convenience store clerk under the supervision of a guy who was (and still is) into comic books. After some discussion, he and decided to create a comic book. I’d write it and he’d draw it. I developed a character name Night Shadow, and his superpower was the ability to instantly transport himself to another location (along with the obligatory extra strength). I wrote a trilogy to introduce the character and even went so far as to outline the pages with the panels. However, my friend didn’t keep up his part and didn’t even finish page one. So, the project was dropped. (We tried again several years later with a group of people interested in creating our own comic book ‘universe’. Again, lack of determination buried that attempt in short order.)

After my fifth year class reunion, I conceived of an idea to write a series about a guy who meets a supernatural wizard who tells him he must reconnect with his high school classmates to reestablish the bond they all had developed back in school. Three other supernatural ‘demons’ were out to stop him. I wrote the first book where the guy saves the girl he liked back in high school and I had planned for them to partner up in future books. The second book became stalled when I tried to write without an outline. I was so excited about developing the characters I forgot to develop a quality plot.

Fast forward to the middle 90s. I’m living in Oskaloosa and have earned my black belt in taekwondo. I’m working a series of jobs and the writing bug is back. My idea was to have a private investigator also be a taekwondo instructor, dress like Humphrey Bogart’s version of Sam Spade (or maybe similar to Dick Tracy), and use martial arts instead of relying on a gun. I thought of resurrecting Sam for the job, but I was so in admiration of the all the beautiful wonderful women in martial arts I knew I had to change the character’s gender. Thus, Mallory Petersen. Again, the name sounded good to me and I changed the SON to an SEN because a former coworker of mine spelled his last name that way.

I wanted a gimmick to my books, some catchy title to make the stories memorable. “The Cat Who…”, “A is for…”, and numbers were all taken and Travis McGee took all of the cool ‘colorful’ titles. So, I turned to the Greek alphabet proposing to use each letter in other roles than their Greek origin. So, Alpha was going to present an alpha male. Beta videocassettes were all but dead and gone at the time I completed the story, but after a little tinkering, the name still worked. I’m currently writing Delta where the triangular symbol is used in addition to putting the title to somebody’s name. What’s next? Gamma, and of course if you know your comic books, Bruce Banner was affected by gamma rays to become the Hulk.

Beta was actually published first because Alpha’s first draft was a piece of crap. I hadn’t learned enough about the craft of writing to know how to fix it. Years later, after learning how to write properly, how to edit, how to plot, how to add intrigue and build tension, I dusted off Alpha, threw away a lot of stupid material, added some new characters and a subplot, and this last August, it was published in paperback. Beta and Night Shadows (no similarity to the old comic book project) are available as eBooks.

So, that’s why and how I became a writer. I found something interesting and ideas never left me alone. I still want to entertain, to make people laugh andto  get emotional over a character and a story. I want to have somebody read my work and think, “I can do that, too.” I’m not being immodest when I write this. The authors I read inspired me. So, in one way I just want to be a inspirational spark for someone else.

In another way, I want to sell books, so after reading and commenting on this blog, click to Amazon and purchase a copy of my three books. Okay? Thanks….

Please check out these blogs for similar Why I Write posts. Thanks.

Charlotte San Juan  charlottesanjuan.wordpress.com
Eileen Obser www.eileenobser.com
Chris Swinney http://clswinney.com
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Categories: Uncategorized | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Why I Write

  1. Stephen, i loved this piece. You put things into perspective and this is good. I think we write to entertain, if you’re not entertaining your audience (readers), than why share.

  2. Good post, Stephen. I like your Greek alphabet series titles. Ingenious.

  3. John Brantingham

    I love the piece and the comparison to urology. But in the end, you write because it grabs you. You’re an inspiration, man!

  4. Well done! Your piece made me think…and that requires quite a bit! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Stephen, I appreciate your honesty and your wit. And you’re right, the ideas take hold and just won’t let go. Wonderful post!

  6. Ditto the above comments. An enjoyable post and I’m heading over to Amazon right now…

  7. Thanks everybody for commenting.

  8. “an inspirational spark for someone else” – how well put, Stephen. I teach writing for just that reason. Nice post.

  9. Like you, Stephen, my first manuscript as, as you desribe it “crap”, and like you I’m dustng it off and redoing it now, hoping that what I’ved learned about the craft will make it better (it couldn’t get worse!).

  10. Great story, Stephen, with your whole journey as a writer laid out clearly for us. Good work.

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