Last time I wrote I reflected on my last assignment for the NJ Writer’s Group where I had to write about an inanimate object. My crazy story about talking makeup products, strippers, and religion was actually much better received than I expected it to be. It was as different as it could possibly be from my peers’ stories (most of them were actually children’s stories), but everyone said they appreciated my creativity nonetheless and no one seemed offended.
Also, everyone was really happy and excited to see me since it was my first time being there in a few months. I took off before my surgery because I was afraid of getting sick and then naturally I took off for awhile after as I recovered.
Everyone was so excited that they passed the baton to me at the end of the meeting and asked me to choose what I’d like to do for the next meeting.
I decided to go back to my elementary roots and choose something I’ve always enjoyed doing but haven’t done in awhile — a collaborative “finish the story” style exercise.
We discussed the details and rules and decided that what we’d all do is come in with the first 2 paragraphs of our story hand-written and stapled to several extra pages for everyone else to finish for us. We’d pass it around at the meeting giving everyone I believe 2 minutes to add a paragraph or 2 of their own to the story.
I’ll admit that I sort of forgot about the assignment (bad, I know especially considering how I was the one to come up with it in the first place…) until last night. With it being due tonight (in less than an hour to be precised), I was a little rushed, but luckily it’s only 2 paragraphs I had to worry about — not an entire story.
I’m not sure if I ever mentioned it before, but I am by far the youngest in the writing group I attend. I’m only 25 and everyone else is in their 50’s or at least pushing 50. Some may even be a little older. I definitely considered writing a beginning of a story that would make them feel uncomfortable — but actually, it would probably end up having the reverse effect. They may be a bit older than me, but they’re a pretty chill group of people and sometimes the things they come out with are so open and raw that I’m the one left feeling slightly uncomfortable. But hey, it’s a writing group. When it comes to writing, anything goes.
In the end I decided I needed a story that would be open to creativity and could have a strong, quick opening that would be easy to add on to, especially when the writing was being done by others who didn’t have the same vision as I did for the story. I decided I would write s story about a gnome named Norman who comes home as a souvenir from Germany and then comes to life and demands to live a human life instead of staying in the garden with the other lawn ornaments.
I didn’t expect to fall in love with my story, but the thing with love is this: it happens when you least expect it.
Here are the first 2 paragraphs of my story (if you can read through my crazy handwriting that is). I didn’t want to have to stop!
Norman the gnome is my child. I created him. I created Elizabeth and my nameless narrator (darn it why didn’t I remember to give him a name?!?), too. They are my family and I know exactly how they should be. Norman should be a stubborn and feisty troublemaker. Elizabeth should be a little loud, quirky, fun, and very smart. The nameless narrator should be a hopeless romantic, a little shy, and almost bullied or intimidated (non-intentionally) by Elizabeth. Norman will get his way and be permitted to live in the home after putting up a good fight and instead of being a gnome, he’ll act more like a son to Elizabeth and the nameless narrator. But since he’s a gnome people will look at him weird when he goes out in public and he’ll face much adversity. That’s my story.
But here’s the thing: it’s not my story to be had. I am only the owner of the first two paragraphs. All of the fellow writers in the group will have a share in this story, too. They could ship my gnome back to Germany and have Elizabeth and the nameless narrator get their money back. They could make my gnome the next US president. They can even smash and kill my poor Norman the Gnome baby.
And there’s nothing I can do about it.
It’s hard to just let go of the story like that. Especially when I already think I have it all planned out exactly how I want it to be. But who’s to say someone else won’t have a better idea? This will be a great exercise for not only getting to know other writers, but learning to view things in a different perspective, too.
But I am wondering — what happens if I like everyone else’s version of my story? What if I were to publish it with everyone else’s contributions? Would it still be my story, or is it a collaborative story that needs everyone else’s names on it for legal purposes? My guess would be the later, but I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely something I should ask Laura about when I see her tonight.
I’m definitely looking forward to contributing to everyone else’s stories tonight, too. I just hope I don’t completely butcher them all. I can definitely have a creative mind (creative here is slang for “weird”.
Regardless, I have to go and get ready. Group starts in just over a half hour! Stay tuned for a follow up post with my post-meeting reflections!