I wrote my first short story when I was six years old. I dictated it to a teacher’s assistant at my school and she wrote the sentences down, one per page. Then I illustrated each page with crayons. It was called “The Baby Dragon”. Basically, Mama Dragon has an egg and out comes Baby Dragon. They go for a walk and run into a T-Rex. Mama Dragon and the T-Rex fight, and Mama prevails. The end. It wasn’t groundbreaking but it did have a beginning middle and an end. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but somehow, yeah, I knew.
We all know what stories are. We know what makes them satisfying. We’ve spent a lifetime reading, watching movies and TV, hearing stories told from our friends or family or stand-up comedians or whatever. Deep down in our guts, we know.
And then we set out to write something for other people to enjoy. A book, a screenplay, a stage play, or a blog post. And all of a sudden there’s a million rules and our own expectations and people’s advice about writing in our ears and that thing that college professor told us once and before you know it, we realize that getting what’s in our head and heart onto the page just isn’t easy.
It’s not easy. It’s so damn hard. But we know what to do. Deep down inside, we know. We just have to practice and make mistakes and learn lessons and have happy accidents and every once in a while, something clicks and our fingers can’t type fast enough because the words are just THERE. I live for those moments. Don’t we all?
A couple years after I wrote “The Baby Dragon”, I found it in a box in my room. I read the story, saw the pictures in crayon. Then I took a black marker and added stuff. There was now a baby T-Rex, so while Mama Dragon was in her fight, Baby Dragon was having a fight too. The dragons both won. I showed my Mom the new revised version of “The Baby Dragon” and she flipped out. “You ruined it!” she howled. I don’t know about that, but I guess I understand a bit of what George Lucas felt when he added all that crappy CGI to the original “Star Wars” trilogy.
The point is: we know how to tell a story. The hardest part of doing it is sitting down to do it. But the next hardest part is getting out of the way of all the other bullshit. It’s not impossible. Not at all. It just feels that way sometimes.
Two more things: First, bless that young teacher’s assistant, wherever she is. She sat down with me one-on-one and helped me make my first story. I don’t remember her name or face but I will never forget what she gave me.
And second, the rights to “The Baby Dragon” are still available. Do with that what you will.