Monday, April 19, 2010

The Story Behind "Better Than Anything"

Scroll down one post to read the story itself. Or click:

As I've stated before, this was my first published story, in a Barnes & Noble anthology called Between the Leaves, edited by Stuart Miller. It was an antho of writing B&N employees and although it only paid five copies, I had to submit a piece just to know if my work was too awful to even be included in a gimmie such as this one.

The first germ of an idea for this piece was the question, "What if your fingers could bend the other way too?" This occurred to me one day in high school while I was imagining what fun it could be to horrify a particularly weak-bellied English teacher. I pictured myself making a fist, slowly opening my fingers, and making all of my knuckles bend in the opposite direction so that I'd have a fist once again. This fist, of course, would employ the back of the hand as the palm, have the nails on the inside, and look pleasingly odd at the end of my arm. But that was as far as the idea went.

In my early twenties a couple of thoughts were bouncing around inside my skull which made their way, in one way or another, into a few of my stories. The first concerned my early love of comic books, coupled with my later disappointment in most of the writing. I was interested in writing comics myself because I wanted better writing. But I also wanted full control of the finished product. Since I couldn't draw, I decided that fiction dealing with the themes that I found so fascinating was the route to take. I wanted to play superheroes from an adult point of view: smartened-up, with characters that acted like real people. The second thought concerned television news, its increasing drive towards sensationalism, and its ever-growing prefabricated substance. By the latter I mean opinion polls, computer generated re-enactments or artists renditions, creating controversy where there was none and so on (All of which led to a decided lack of actual news). With this story I simply took it to the extreme.

The actual spark that brought all of these ideas together was a method suggested by Ray Bradbury in his book, "Zen in the Art of Writing" (If you want to be a writer, this book is required reading), in which he mentions making huge lists of words (The goat, The mailbox, The appendectomy scar, etc.) and considering what thoughts each word triggers. When something excites the mind sufficiently, you've got yourself a story idea. I was sitting on my car in my front yard, playing with this method mentally, and I thought: 'The Glove.' The rest is in the story.

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