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March 20, 2006
Posted at 12:34 am

Stories are like babies

As most authors do, I get a little mail once in a while. Most of it is pretty nice ... complimentary ... and that's good. Once in a while somebody points out a mistake, or tells me they're just not interested in a story for one reason or another. Both of those are good things too.

I got to thinking about one email where a guy said the device I used just ruined the whole story for him and he quit reading. It was like he had told me my kid was incorrigible, and that he wanted me to lock the little ingrate in a closet or something.

That led to thoughts of how, when a writer is developing a story, it's like creating a baby. First of all it's fun to create a baby. And it's fun to create a story, though I have to admit I've never had an orgasm over a story idea. I've had story ideas that came from orgasms ... you know what I mean.

Anyway, you have all these dreams about what your baby is going to be like, and as the chapters pile up it's a little like a pregnant belly swelling. That file gets bigger and bigger and kicks and shoves, just like a baby does in the womb as it develops.

Then one day it is done and, like a baby coming out of the womb into the cold cruel world, the first chapter of the story is posted.

Now the world judges it. Of course to you, it's perfect, with all its little fingers and toes, and you coo at it and are so proud of it.

Then some schmuck says "Man ... that's an UGLY baby!"

OK, maybe it's head is shaped a little weird. Maybe one eye wanders. But it's going to mature as further chapters are posted, until it's fully formed, and a grown up story is the result.

Most people say "What a nice well behaved child you have!" And you smile and are all proud of your story, which is like your child.

And the schmuck shows back up and tells you that your sweet child shoplifted something, or threw rocks through somebody's window, or worse.

Once in a while, when you go back and look at a story, you're a little disappointed, like you are when you find out your teenager started smoking or whatever.

Some stories grow up and go to college and get doctorates, while others stay stupid little rednecks who will never amount to anything.

I didn't plan on having this big a family. It's been a wild and strange ride. And it turns out that all of you readers are the villiage it takes to raise these particular offspring.

So, if you find that you're disappointed in one of my children, that's fine. Tell me about it. It's not a problem. Like most parents I have a few favorites, who I will defend to the end. But I know they're not all rocket scientist material.

I appreciate you helping ride herd on the little ankle biters. Maybe it will help them grow up to be good stories.

As always, thanks for reading.