Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Finding The Story

By Jay Stringer

You saw the news that we have another collection out, right? You didn't? Damn, you must be blind. Wait, you can't be blind, you're reading this......

...Whatever. Just in case; our collection Collateral Damage Is on sale now. Each story is themed around the topic of Fathers Day. From the buzz of a New Jersey wedding reception, to the cold mean streets of Dundee, we got you covered.

One of the initial plans when we started DSD was to talk a little behind the scenes of writing. So I thought I'd tease you all today with the opening of my story from the collection, then tease you a little more telling you what it was about.


"I think I'm pregnant."

How do you respond to that?

I offered my wife another salted peanut. We were in our local and someone was murdering a 60's country song on acoustic guitar. A special level of hell is reserved for open mic nights. There's only so much Oasis and Rod Stewart I can take without becoming homicidal.

But what had Laura said?

Focus, Miller.

"I'm late. It's been three weeks."

"Are you sure? You eat a lot of fibre, maybe you're just, you know, bunged up."

Not the best thing to say.

She stood up and left. I turned back to the music to hear about someones sex being on fire.


The house was dark and quiet when I got home. I found my mobile phone in the living room.

It was never very mobile.

I'd missed several calls from my best friend, Terry Becker. I could already hear him complaining about it tomorrow. He'd not left any messages, though, so we both failed at the whole phone thing.

I climbed the stairs and stood for a long time in the bedroom doorway. Laura was taking in the slow, peaceful breaths of deep sleep. I watched her for awhile until it started to feel creepy. Then I turned around and headed into the spare room, the one that we'd talked about setting aside as a nursery. It was big and empty, and I realised how much it was going to take for me to fill it.

My throat closed in and my heart climbed up a few inches.

I swallowed it all down and went to bed.


"Ground control to Major Tom."

I lifted my head off the car window. I'd been staring at the scenery as we drove, watching it fly past out of view. Somewhere between Wolverhampton and Bloxwich I'd drifted off into another world.

I turned to smile at Becker, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove.

He took his eyes off the road long enough to shoot me a look, "you okay?"

I shrugged and looked back out the window. His car was very new and very blue, and something about that was annoying me. I decided maybe it was the smell. I'd never liked the smell of new.

Or maybe it was his CD player. He was offending me with some jazz shite.

Every few months he'd go through a new phase, trying to prove that he was a middle class white man with a brain. He'd buy some new CDs and learn a few new recipes. A few times he'd dragged me along to foreign film festivals at the Electric Cinema in the city.

So far he had missed the point of;

Alternative Country.
Palestinian Food.
Italian Cinema.

When he'd picked me up that morning he'd asked if I'd ever seen a film called Sholay and I didn't think the world was ready for his Bollywood phase. He worked so hard at being something that he wasn't.

Maybe that's why we were best friends.

"Laura thinks she might be pregnant," I looked over at him, watching his eyes jump a little. "She told me last night. She's missed her period."

"Is she sure? Maybe she's just-"

"Don't go there."

He smiled. "You should be happy, it's exciting, yeah?"

I turned back to the window. There were smudge marks on the glass from my hair, and just for a moment it gave the car some character.

"You're not him, you know." Becker's eyes were on the road but his voice was on my past. "You don't have to be your father."

I smiled thinly and nodded.

I couldn't think of anything in the world I was less suited for than fatherhood.

And, as we pulled onto Fishley Farm, I couldn't think of anywhere in the world I less wanted to be.


So there's a taster for you. The main character of the story is also the protagonist of my two manuscripts, Eoin Miller. By the time I come to him in the books, his life has already gone through some major changes. This was a chance to look at him at a different time in his life, when he should have had everything going for him, and see how he dealt with it.

Part of the fun is writing a self absorbed character in first person and finding ways to get across information to the reader that the character doesn't want to give, and I think the opening above does that. We see Miller through the way he treats and judges those closest to him.

The story itself took me an age. I had the story, but I couldn't write it. I had some big big themes running round in my head, filtered from news stories about Gypsy camp evictions like Dale Farm, and from reading a book about the Israel/Palestine wall. Big burning issues that can suffocate a writer.

It wasn't until I remembered that I had some characters I wanted to write about, and that they would have some interesting interactions with each other, that I started to push past theme and find story again.

So I'm proud of my story, Fathers Day, and of the collection. The DSD crew have each stamped their own style and flavour onto the anthology. Check it out.

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