November 8th, 2016


Writers, Radishes, and Preconceptions

LJI 10.0, Introduction
I began writing entries for LJ Idol in season 8, and looking back, I think that very first prompt shaped how I would view the competition. What was the prompt? When You Pray, Move Your Feet

Now, just on the face of it, that topic had the potential to really scare the crap out of you as a writer. I mean, would you automatically be locked into constructing a story or personal tale around that religious theme? If not, how far could you wander afield before the audience would cry foul? Me, I didn't worry about any of those things, I started with a vegetable fight!

The radish struck Tony on his forehead as soon as he opened the front door.

Oh sure, there are stories I've written since then that I'm fonder of for various reasons--the characters embody something I believe in, or the plot has a cool twist--but this one was special, not only for being my first LJI entry, but for showing me the best way of dealing with Gary's mind twisting prompts. The day that first topic came out, I was traveling out of town for work, and had planned to bring along a bag of radishes my wife had purchased for me as a hotel snack. When I arrived and discovered the dreadful snackless truth of the forgotten vegetables, I decided, whatever else I did, radishes had to be a major component of the entry I wrote. My mind somehow came up with the hapless image of a boy being targeted with a radish by his girlfriend, I wrote the first sentence, and the rest of the story followed from there.

Of course, not all my submissions would begin so easily, and by Entry 4, What Does Narcissism Have To Do With Me, I had moved from fictitious stories to actual life experiences, relating an adventure from my high school days. At that time, I was unaware of LJ Idol's history, the fact that fiction had originally been the exception, not the norm. To me, the phrase "writing competition" meant writing fiction, and to be honest, I was a little dismayed that I had wandered off what I saw as the true path of speculative fiction I had envisioned for myself.

Nevertheless, I subsequently decided that Topic 5, Inconceivable, was best suited to a tale from my previous occupation as an adaptive technology trainer, and that entry 6, Food Memory, was perfect for telling about the time my youngest was injured and learned about the potato chip policemen. By the time Gary got to topic 7, Bupkis, I was ready to have some real fun, and told a story in first person that seemed like another childhood anecdote, but eventually turned into a horror story which couldn't possibly be true.

Why, you may ask, am I belaboring a group of entries written back in 2011? First, because I think the introduction that's important here is who I am as a writer, not a list of statistics including age, sex, and location. The other, much more reflective reason, is that "I got it," in season 8. When I looked back, I discovered that I took a Bye during weeks 3 and 9, but didn't stop writing until I was eliminated in entry 20, Y2K, and A Civil Campaign. That determination and commitment to writing was something I lost in subsequent seasons, and I'm determined to get it back this time around.

Believe it or not, I'm not even that worried about what Gary has in store for us in season 10. Come on, I live with my wife, two teenage daughters, and three female dogs. What can he possibly do to me that they haven't already done? *grin*