Short love stories are often sad. It means it didn’t work out for two people who started out with hope, but discovered that hope, being the last thing at the bottom of the jar, wasn’t enough.
A good gangster story, one that goes down in the history of literature, tells a story of relationships and love, and heartbreak. The money is a vehicle to a worldly purpose, outside of the need to trust, love, and bind people together.
“The Godfather”, a book full of tough men and women who are looking for love. The gangsters have their duty to attend to. There’s a love story, falling in love, forgetting the world and everything in it, then remembering that you have important duties to attend to — other people’s lives depend on you.
The need for love is there, but duty calls and creates conflict within the heart. The characters are torn between duty and love.
I mentioned that I’d started a short story about lovers. Working title, “Love on Ice Road”. I see stories. They jump out at me. So, I saw an icy road, late at night.
An all-night roadside café with the hatch up. It’s row of coloured lightbulbs the only warmth in a desolate road thick with frozen icy tracks. Three people stop to drink hot coffee at two in the morning.
A large talkative man keeps rattling on about football scores, another man is an insomniac; he can’t sleep, so he walks down this cold and forgotten road, surrounded by dark trees, crunching ice, and stops to drink his nighttime coffee. The insomniac wants to talk, or at least meet another non-sleeper. He doesn’t like football.
A woman turns up. She orders coffee. It doesn’t take long before Mr Football Scores tells her all about the last football season.
Our insomniac listens and watches; he can see that she isn’t enjoying herself, so he steps in. Offers her a way out of the boredom. She gladly takes her prompted cue, and they both fall into conversation. The Football Guy watches with his cold bloodshot eyes, he leans on the small sill of the café hatch.
At this point in my writing, I feel like I’m going into “cat-mode”, I found a cotton reel that looks interesting and I want to play with it. Then I start to notice something happening, it’ll unspool and create pretty patterns all over the floor. Soon, I know, the pretty patterns will become confusing. If I’m not careful, I’ll pull at threads that might make it look good, but won’t, and I’ll create something that looks like a Jackson Pollock painting in words.
When lovers meet, it always feels as if the whole world suddenly became right. Everything just fell into place, and from here on life will be sweet. We all fall for it. Nobody can blame us for enjoying the first six months of a sweet ride.
Then something gets in the way of all that good stuff.
On Ice Road, is a nice place to drink coffee for lonely, sleep deprived people. I decided that there must be an element of intrigue in the story, something to take their minds away from the possibilities of falling in love. You know, I, the writer, need to throw a spanner in the works and make the two of them take a step back, think about it for a moment, and ask questions like, “Who the hell is this person.”
As soon as that happened in my unspooling of the cotton reel, I had to stop writing and ask dozens of questions; what makes he or she stop falling in love (if that’s what’s happening)? And when I find the answer it better be damned good. The thing that stops them from getting any closer turned out to be that he thinks she isn’t who she says she is.
When we write stories, we’ll always draw on what we know. As the words build up and the story develops we reflect on the things in life that have taught us the hardest lessons; that’s the place where good stories come from. A life full of heart-ache and conflict is a big fat notebook for a writer to refer to.
We are human, and our life experience is similar to those who went before us. The trail of broken hearts, the disappointments, and the uplifting times that make us believe that life isn’t only a dark and icy road. There’s always a row of warm glowing lightbulbs somewhere up ahead.
She tells him about herself. He reflects on her words, and gives a little about his own life. He says he doesn’t know why he can’t sleep, she tells him she fires people for a living — gets rid of corporate people for companies. That worries him.
He didn’t tell her the truth about why he can’t sleep — he owes a shady firm a lot of money. His business went pear-shaped and he’s deeply worried that his payment time is up. His nights are long and lonely, and every tick of the clock sounds like a doorhandle gently opening his cabin door.
He can’t help but think that a people firer could be code for something sinister.
As we stroll along through the beginning of this story, I can’t help but think how simple it all seems. Nothing world-shattering; We all know the story of the guy who is on the run from the Mob, the woman misunderstood, either in a comedic way, or in a tragic way.
As a writer it is important to know every detail of your story. If you don’t, or can’t discover it, you can’t write it and finish it.
If you are anything like me, then you’ll admit that there’s a strange feeling that occurs when you know the nitty-gritty details of Why? How? Who?, of a story that isn’t even one third written. It’s as if I feel, “why write it, I already know what happens?”
Like reading a book that you read last week. It’s all clear and fresh in your mind. And, it all seems so simple and ordinary.
A writer remembers things, and then develops them into a story. Memory is a great writer’s tool because it’s faulty — that allows us to make stuff up and turn it all into a unique story of life. The results turn out to read like it’s never been told before, yet the reader relates, totally, to what’s happening. It reflects life through another mirror.