Themes & Variations

I’m planning on taking a creative writing course starting a few weeks from now. Generally speaking, it seems to me that the worst thing you can do when embarking on any new endeavour is to sit in the basement, ostensibly working on whatever it is, but in reality stewing in your own juices. What I mean to say is that the more you accept a comfort zone, the longer you shelter yourself from the world, or criticism, or whatever, the more difficult it becomes to break out of that comfort zone. In the case of writing, I’m thinking I don’t want to go down the road of tapping away at a keyboard in my office, adding streams of words no one will ever read to a blog no one will ever care about. Instead, the plan is to head out and take this course, meet some peers with their own interests in writing, and see what happens.

At the very least I’m hoping this will give me a somewhat structured platform for exploring the creative side of writing. Added benefits would be the opportunity to learn a little about developing style, building interesting characters, developing worthwhile plots, basically all the good stuff that makes a piece of writing worth reading.

So in the interest of getting a bit of a head start on the creative writing class, I thought I’d spend some time in my blog on the subject. Eventually, I might devote some posts to actual honest-to-goodness snippets of short stories – maybe even build a short story or novella Charles Dickens-style in a serialized format right here.

I haven’t done much creative writing for a long, long time. I enjoyed it when I was young, and I recall having at least one of my stories published in the school newsletter when I was in grade 3 or 4. The Santa Wing it was called. Actually, it was kind of a good story. The plot was that the reindeer were all on holiday in Florida over Christmas so there was no one to pull the sleigh for old Santa. (If I wrote the story today I’d probably have the reindeer threaten to unionize and Santa would lock them out). Anyhow, Santa invents the “Santa Wing,” which is just a sort of rocket-powered sleigh to deliver the presents instead. I don’t recall how it ended. A fun ending would be to have the reindeer plant a sympathetic gnome as a saboteur to blow it up, killing Santa and freeing them from ever having to pull his sleigh again. Or a more child-friendly plot would have the Santa Wing break down, but in the nick of time the reindeer realize Santa needs them and they show up to pull the sleigh after all.

Years later I wrote another Christmas story called The Boy Santa Forgot. It was never published anywhere, but it was a fun story. The plot was that this one little boy’s parents were very poor and couldn’t heat their house. In that particular year, Santa had switched to using infra-red goggles to determine which houses needed gifts. Well, with no heat in the house, Santa assumed this boy’s house was vacant and he skipped it. On Christmas Eve, full of holiday cheer, the boy had built a great big snowman in his front yard. Of course, Christmas Day comes and goes with no gifts but with many tears, and on Boxing Day the boy wakes up to find that the snowman is gone. What has happened is that, seeing that the boy received no gifts, his snowman decided to march off to the North Pole to find Santa and bring the boy back a gift. The snowman does get to the North Pole, but weeks have now passed and Santa refuses to give out a gift for a prior year’s Christmas. The snowman is enraged and he attacks Santa, only to be easily defeated and left in pieces out in the snow. Well, the snowman slowly gathers himself back together and then starts to press himself, all over his body, as hard as he can. gradually, the pressure turns him from snow into ice, and in his new ice man form he goes back for the rematch. This second battle is much more involved, with gnomes and reindeer and toys and so forth all joining in, but eventually the ice man is victorious, and Santa shows up at the boy’s house the next day with a special bag of presents just for him. I really loved writing those fight scenes, with the toy workshop as the setting and the ridiculous imagery of Santa as this rather cruel man who eagerly launches himself into hand-to-hand combat.

I think I might spend my next blog or two outlining some of the approaches I’m developing to writing, and some of the themes I’m interested in exploring.



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