Writing a book is something that has always ranked pretty high on my lifetime achievement list. Maybe this is one of the reasons why I was so proud when I published my PhD dissertation. (Or maybe it was because it’s a great achievement on many other levels.) No matter how awesome it felt, (perhaps obviously) a PhD book – even one with an official ISBN and all – was not what I had in mind when I added a book to my life achievement list. I was probably thinking more of something like a novel, or perhaps a memoir at a time when I decide my life has become interesting enough to bundle parts into a book. Until then, my blog will have to suffice.
My head has always been full of ideas. Maybe too many of them. I think choosing one to develop further was so hard that the writing never came.
In the past few months, however, I’ve been toying with an idea for a series of short-stories that would fit the same common theme. The short stories would be loosely based on personal experiences, combined with about 60 to 80 percent fiction.
One of the stories, or rather the protagonist in one of these stories has been stuck in my mind since then. This character has such potential, I think it deserves a book. The story has not fully crystallized yet but. I’m currently at about 50-50 percent fiction-reality, so I think there’s some room for story and character development. Nevertheless this story, both the parts based in reality, and the parts that took shape in my head make for such a compelling and touching story that talking about it creates a knot in my stomach.
In his ‘On writing’, Stephen King explains the importance of the ideal reader, when you’re developing a story. I never gave the reader much thought. I didn’t write for others. I wrote and write for the sake of writing. It gives me great satisfaction and joy. However, when someone of King’s caliber says something, it deserves some consideration. Perhaps the only valid similarity to point out between me and King, is our preference when it comes to the ideal reader. Like King, I would probably write with my partner in mind as the ideal reader. If my writing pleases her, I’m happy. Even after twelve years, maybe especially after twelve years, her opinion matters to me most. The two young souls we put on this planet together come close, but they can’t read. They’re out, for now.
We were on a long drive today, when I revealed to her that I wanted to write a book. She wasn’t surprised, as I have said this often, without substance. I think she felt immediately that this time was different. She asked me if I wanted to share the story. Of course not! It wasn’t done yet. I could feel the disappointment in her reaction. Then I remembered the concept of the ideal reader. I explained to her the protagonist and the conflicts that characterize him. I explained how I intended to place the semi-fictional person in real and fictional situations, that together would make a very moving and emotional story. My eyes welled up a bit when I explained my intentions. The knot in my stomach was there too – I think this story is ripe to be told.
She said she loved it. What a relief!
Without ever explaining the idea of the ideal reader, she offered to be just that.
I think there’s no excuse now…
I’m going on a deadline here, and I’ll give myself until the end of the year.
Wish me luck.