Todd Durrant’s Random Thoughts
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Writing My Book, “Trigger”

This week was a huge one for me.  It has been a long three years in the making, and finally, I held my own published book in my hands!  I think one way to describe it is to say that it is like having a baby.  Well, maybe not quite as intense.  It took me two years to write it since I could only work on it for an hour or two per week.  Then it took another year to go through multiple edits and prepare it for publication.  So when it finally showed up at my door, it was like the pregnancy had finally ended and the baby was here!

TRIGGER by Todd Durrant

TRIGGER by Todd Durrant

I suppose there is a weakness in that comparison.  Being pregnant, from everything I’ve witnessed, is not very pleasant.  However, writing the book was actually enjoyable.   There were times when I sat down in front of the old Dell laptop and thought, “I don’t know what I’m going to say today,” but once the fingers started typing, I usually had fun.  Though it was something like “work”, it didn’t feel like I was working. Only at the editing stage did it start to feel like I was laboring because I had to start trimming back, cutting things out, adding things in, fixing grammatical problems, etc. and that isn’t so enjoyable.

Since I was a kid in Junior High School, I loved reading and writing.  That love really kicked off in the sci-fi genre.  When I was assigned books to read in school, I didn’t always find myself entranced by the stories.  There were certain books that I remember reading and having my emotions engaged, which was nice.  But once I read Ray Bradbury for the first time, with “The Martian Chronicles” and “The Illustrated Man”, I was completely pulled in by the imaginative subjects, interesting characters, and limitless possibilities.  That is when I became excited about reading and writing, once I found a genre that broke the rules and where anything could happen.   I distinctly remember writing a couple of short stories in a creative writing unit when I was about 12 years old, and I tried to write like Ray Bradbury, with a hint of darkness, mystery, and the bizarre.  I wrote a story about Christmas that was built around a stellar weapons test.  And I wrote another story about a nuclear explosion witnessed by small town citizens (funny that I’m currently watching the “Jericho” TV series and a couple scenes reminded me of my story so many years ago).   I got back those assignments from my Jr. High English teacher with a big “A++++” scrawled across the top.   Apparently she hadn’t seen many kids write those kind of stories before.

I don’t share that experience to say that I am anywhere as good as Ray Bradbury, or that my book is an “A++++”.    I just remember that was a defining moment for me.  I wanted to be a writer!  Of course, interests change, situations change, loves are refined, and those Jr. High aspirations just became part of a larger mesh of interests.   I was also in love with pop music, and that carried on through High School and beyond, and that became my creative outlet.  I wrote songs constantly.  I have hundreds of songs written during those teen years.  I filled entire notebooks, and recorded them on my 4-track cassette recorder.   Music took over as my means of creative expression, and the only other writing I did was in a very detailed journal.

It was not until just a few years ago that I decided to revisit my interest in writing.  I was still reading science fiction and was enjoying a couple of newer authors.  I had become a big fan of Orson Scott Card and was inspired by his “Ender” series.  I had also become a fan of Jack McDevitt because he wrote good, old-fashioned space operas blended with a touch of discovery and alien archeology.  I also had favorite books by Greg Bear like “The Forge of God” (it’s always fun when Earth is destroyed), and “The Anvil of Stars” (great starfaring book), and also had revisited classics by master Arthur C. Clark.   On something of a whim I decided that I was going to drop reading for a while and spend that time writing.   That meant that my Sunday evenings, which is about the only time I’m not busy with other things, I wouldn’t pick up a paperback to read, but would sit down and write a story.

I had a basic story in mind that I felt combined some of my favorite aspects of science fiction novels.  There would be a degree of space travel (humanity going to a new place), the destruction of the homeland (Earth) and the seemingly unquenchable desire to retake the homeland (something we see in our true human history), and the crazy, limitless paradoxes that come into play when you mess with the space-time continuum (in a sense, time travel).   That meant that my story wouldn’t necessarily be “hard sci-fi” where everything must be explained as closely as possible in real scientific terms.  I’m not a scientist, so I don’t even want to attempt that game.  I would ignore certain principles (like the theory of relativity) if it ruined my story, yet would try to tell the story in a way that it would seem like plausible future history.   My focus would be on the characters and how the best of intentions can have unintentional results, or difficult results that can be misunderstood, etc.   There wouldn’t be clearly defined “good guys” and “bad guys”, but just a collection of people who all believe they are doing what’s best, even when it ends up in conflict.

I won’t tell the story here (please buy my book to get the whole story), but I think it was a pretty solid idea.  Maybe it isn’t completely unique, since there are countless sci-fi books I haven’t read, and I’m sure many of the ideas have been touched before.  I’ve even come across a movie recently that made me think, “hey, that’s too close to my idea!”   I don’t think you have to be groundbreaking in art, either storytelling or music making, as long as you tell the classic tale in an interesting way that makes people want to read it or hear it.

Eventually, I bought a used Dell laptop on EBay so that I could type in bed, take my book with me on a road trip, and work on it without sitting in the basement where I spend all day working.   Sometimes I didn’t know what exactly would happen next in my story, but I discovered an odd thing.  Once you’ve established your characters in your mind, they tend to decide for you what they will do next.   I don’t think that my best characters are in “Trigger”– since writing that book, I’ve come up with even better characters for the next stories.  But I did feel that they stood on their own and started to come alive at least as I wrote the book.   Maybe to an outside reader the characters will seem bland because I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the way they look.  But as I say, in my own mind, they were very alive and tended to pull themselves into the story in such a way that writer’s block never lasted long.  I would find myself asking during the week, “I wonder how Wesley is going to react to this situation?”  or “How will Captain Spencer react when he finds out he’s been wrong his whole life?”

I knew how I wanted the story to end, and it took longer to get there than I expected, because getting from point A to point B isn’t always a smooth road until you iron out the details.  I wanted the kind of ending that some people (like me) love, while other people may hate it.  Some people like an ending that wraps everything up and says, “there, problem solved!”   But not me.  Maybe it is the “X-Files” fan in me that dictates that an ending needs to have a climax, but also needs to leave the reader wondering about things, asking questions, and determining for themselves who was “right” or who was “wrong”.   Heck, maybe they’d even want to read another book that carries on with small elements of the first book because they were left scratching their heads?

I mentioned the TV series “Jericho” above, and I both like and dislike that show so far.  I like it because they do have an overall story arch that leaves you wondering what is REALLY going on in this story.  There are mysterious characters, motives, and backgrounds that make you want to keep watching so you can discover what it happening in the bigger picture.   But then I don’t like that every episode ALSO tries to wrap everything up and show you that everything is OK, like a cheery 30-minute sitcom.   Each episode has a little, happy ending where a small problem is resolved and everybody is smiling, and we all feel like things will be OK in Jericho.  Ah, they saved the corn crop!  Ah, they put out the fires.  Ah, the family is back together again.   What saves the show in my mind, even though it has been canceled, was the mystery and the bigger, darker picture.   If you read my book, “Trigger”,  I hope that you aren’t disappointed to find that even in the end, there is a bigger, darker picture that unfolds.  Who you thought were the “bad guys” maybe weren’t.  Maybe the good guys can’t really save the day?  Maybe attempting to change things doesn’t ultimately change the outcome, but only the means to the same end?

OK, I’ll shut up for now, but after all, you chose to read my Random Thoughts!

I’ll write more about the process of publishing “Trigger” later.   But I will insert a quick moment of begging… please buy my book!

You can ORDER my book directly from me, in which case I’ll write a little number in there and sign it for you.   Do that here:

http://www.todd-durrant.com

Or you can purchase it from Amazon.com in which case you help to raise the rankings, but it won’t be signed, and I make a royalty in the amount of…well…less than a buck.   But I like Amazon, so I don’t mind!  Just click on the title blow to jump there!

Trigger

-Todd

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2 Responses to “Writing My Book, “Trigger””

  1. That must be an amazing feeling, to have a physical copy of your very own book! I dream of that day for myself. I enjoyed reading this blog, especially about how your characters become so alive, they decide what they’ll do next. I’ve experienced the same thing. When I start writing a book, I never know exactly what’s going to happen. If I had the plot completely outlined, I’d grow bored and never write it. But I love that as soon as I make my characters round and alive, THEY make the plot unfold. A creative writing professor told me that the characters–not the plot–is the most important part of the story.

    Congratulations!

  2. I got my copy over the weekend – Michele and I wont be able to read it until maybe 2 more weeks when this quarter is over (school is eating up our time with lots of reading). But we look forward to reading it 🙂

    We also look forward to seeing what you have to say about publishing – when school is over for both of us, we would love to publish our thesis as books, so we will cull advise anywhere.

    For your next book Todd, do it in “Choose Your Own Adventure” style 😀


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