Thoughts on writing fiction …

Today, a friend here in Berlin asked me questions about writing short fiction. Where do I get ideas for my stories? How do I create my characters?

Well, I must be honest, I don’t have an answer for those questions. I get up every morning and spend two or three hours at my laptop, writing new material, and stuff bubbles up from the various corners of my mind. Late afternoons and evenings I’ll work on revisions.

But one thing is certainly true: I can’t write about a character unless I can visualize him/her and until I know his/her name. Strange, eh?

When I am home in Florida, I often travel to the east coast to surf in Brevard County. I’ve done this since I was a teenager. I’m not a good surfer (It’s a young man’s sport, really, very strenuous.) but I enjoy it nonetheless. I subscribe to a surfing magazine, TransWorld Surf, and it’s filled with wonderful photographs and articles, all deftly edited. When I am trying to decide on a name for a character in one of my stories, I’ll often steal first names of surfers featured in the magazine. (For some reason, parents of surfers choose unique and interesting names for their kids.) Sometimes I’ll pick out a photo of a surfer and use him as a physical model for a character in my story. It helps me fix the character in my head.

I mentioned my story, A Beautiful Motorcycle, in an earlier post. It appears in a Cleis Press anthology titled Boy Crazy. Just as I began writing the story, I came across the photo I’ve included in this post. The main character in my story, Curtis, is fourteen. I used this photo to create Curtis physically. Curtis falls in love with his older sister’s boyfriend, Dan, who is seventeen. The story is both funny and sad. When I fixed a vision of Curtis in my mind — once I knew how he looked — the story became far easier to write. Sometime, I hope you’ll read A Beautiful Motorcycle; it’s one of the best stories I’ve written to date, I believe. I don’t know who the boy in the photo is, but wherever he lives, I thank him for inspiring Curtis’ character.

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