First line of a failed short story: Sadness in Unending Time.

24 Oct

After Midas, I floundered.

People had responded to my little novella. The head of a book publisher read it and clearly was interested in a longer form. I was writing movie reviews for the free paper in town and meeting more and more writers. I met poets and novelists of some repute. I shook hands with agents and publishers and editors at conferences, galas and banquets. I felt like I was on my way.

But I struggled with finding a basic rhythm. I couldn’t settle in on a writing medium. I didn’t like writing by hand; I was easily distracted when writing on the computer; my typewriter was a manual. I tried all three. I wasn’t comfortable. I kept starting and stopping projects. Nothing grabbed hold. I was hitting my head on my lack of life experience. I was writing about writing—and books and writers and so on, the labyrinth of solipsism that so many writers fall into.

I also tried my hand at short stories. Writers who say short stories are more difficult than novels should be shot. They aren’t. (Maybe George Saunders or Steven Millhauser or alice Munro could make this argument.) But, they are a different form, and one I never quite got a handle on. My early stories were too simplistic, morality tales without any real moral. The best of these was my rewriting of Job.[1]

Because I was also trying to break into comics. It seems a bit silly now, but as I was writing novels and stories I was also trying to learn the craft of writing comics. Comics were my first love, really, and with the explosion of new adult-oriented comics—Sandman, The Invisibles, and so on—I felt the pull. I wrote half a dozen treatments; I met with different artists; I plotted, formatted, and slaved. I wrote query letters to Marvel. I even wrote about two issues’ worth of a comic biography of Dostoevsky. Nothing doing. Then my dad introduced me to an artist who was in his forties. We exchanged emails. He was a devout Christian, but militantly so. He said in one email he had no patience for “weak, mealy-mouthed Christianity.”  He was a very fine artist, though, so I tried my best.

So I rewrote Job, in a modern setting. Despite some problems, the story sort of works. As I envisioned it as a comic, I loosened up the prose a little. I borrowed from Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison and even Alan Moore in some of the devices.

I worked on this story for a long time. I sent the artist the prose version and he promptly cut off all communications with me. People are strange.

Here’s the first line of the story that I—embarrassingly, really, as it’s a bad, faux portentous title—titled Sadness in Unending Time:

“The radio wailed Jim Morrison’s deep voice asking to light his fire as Keith shook his head awake.”

As a side note, up to this point I was still using my friends and family for the characters’ names. Robert and Jeff and Chris and Keith, my closest childhood friends and my cousin—these were the main characters. People who had wounded me often had their names co-opted by the villains. Who says writers aren’t petty?

[1] I’ll get into some of the others in another post.


One Response to “First line of a failed short story: Sadness in Unending Time.”


  1. Interlude 2: A found fragment. | simoneandthesilversurfer - August 30, 2014

    […] part 5: short story that goes nowhere […]

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