Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Path to Intrigue and Mayhem : Guest Post by Lauren Carr

Guest Post: 
The Path to Intrigue and Mayhem
By Lauren Carr

How did you get started as an author? What was your first professional job as a writer? These are questions that authors are often asked by readers who are curious about what puts a seemingly normal person on the path to getting paid for writing about intrigue and mayhem.

So, here is my story about what set me on my current path of writing about chaos, deception, and mayhem.

Back when I was in high school, students aspiring to go on to college took college preparatory classes, while those planning to go straight into working at the General Motors plant that employed most of Lordstown, Ohio, population and then some, didn’t.

Since I had no intention of spending my life chained to an assembly line, but rather traveling the world writing murder mysteries like Agatha Christie, I took the college prep classes. I found one problem with this path. While I was studying how to format footnotes, those students training to work for General Motors were learning creative writing. For a future novelist, this seemed vastly unfair.

My friend Suzanne was the class mouse. Resembling Velma in Scooby Doo, she wore turtle neck sweaters that covered up all her flesh for fear of someone actually seeing her. Donning big coke bottle glasses, she would hide behind me in class and chastise me for raising my hand to answer questions because when people turned to look at me, they might actually see her cowering behind me.

So, you can imagine her state when she was informed that the term project for her creative writing class was to write a short story and read it out loud in front of the class.

Just in case you can’t imagine: Suzanne fainted.

For weeks, my best friend fretted and whined while I drooled with envy. They got to use their imaginations while I was memorizing the names of all the parts that make up a bibliography.

I tried to help her as best I could. I’d suggest, “Write about something interesting that happened to you.”

“Nothing interesting ever happens to me,” Suzanne would reply.

She was right there. The girl went to school and then home to watch reruns of The Brady Bunch. She wasn’t allowed to watch The Partridge Family, which her mother considered too racy. She didn’t go to school games, date, or leave her yard. This teenage girl had never even been to a pajama party or kissed a boy. Having never experienced anything, she had no material for a story.

As the deadline approached, Suzanne became more desperate while I got more jealous. “Write about your dog’s flea problem.”

“How can I write a whole story about my dog’s fleas?” she asked.

My writer’s imagination took off.

By D-Day, Suzanne had nothing except hives.

I submitted a proposal for my first professional writing assignment. “Do you want me to write your story for you?”

“It’s due after lunch,” End-Times-Suzanne whimpered.

“You go get my lunch and I’ll write it.”

With a deadline of one study hall and lunch period, I wrote her story. Suzanne paid for the project with a cheeseburger, fries, and diet Coke. Time was so short that she didn’t even have time to read it before the teacher ordered her to the front of the room to read it out loud.

To her horror, the class roared with laughter while she read her short story about a girl tasked with writing a short story for her creative writing class. It was a story within a story.  Her first story idea had been one about her dog’s fleas, but she rejected that idea for yet another and then another idea until the deadline was upon her. Having rejected all other premises, she sat down to pen her short story entitled, “My Dog Has Fleas.”

My classmates talked about it for days. They declared it hilarious and clever. Stating that it was unique, imaginative and well written, Suzanne’s teacher gave my story an “A”—the only “A” she got for the whole class.

Suzanne ran home to lock her door, watch a rerun of Bonanza, and never spoke to me again. (There’s always one critic.)

The rave reviews of the class and teacher spurred me on to write mysteries. This is what writers do. When the chips are down, we look to our successes to keep us going on the path we want to take toward literary success. While “My dog Has Fleas” wasn’t a big assignment that garnered a big payoff, I clung to that little story and the praise from the audience to this day

Over three decades later, I am now the author of eighteen murder mysteries … and Suzanne is still not speaking to me. 

Note from Readers Muse: 
I thank the author, Lauren Carr for this beautiful story about her first experience with writing. Much like her books, the story had me completely engrossed and left me with a smile. Thank you, Ms. Carr! Please do keep writing more.

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