Recently, I had cause to delve into my past. More specifically, into a folder on my hard drive containing a couple dozen short stories I’ve written over the years, the vast majority of which have never been published. These stories go back a long ways — to my freshman year of college, in a few instances.
One thing that I found sort of odd was the amount of time I spent on stories about people older than I was. For example, most of the college-era stories were written in my freshman and sophomore years (by junior year, I was working on a comic books series and a a novel, so there isn’t much short fiction from those years). I was 18 or 19, then, but the stories are about:
- a guy in his late twenties who has been left at the altar
- a guy in his late twenties/early thirties contemplating marriage (hmm… theme?)
- a guy in his late forties struggling to make ends meet and dealing with the death of an infant son
- a guy in his forties dealing with repeated lifetime traumas
Teens have a tendency to think/write primarily about themselves…so I’m not sure exactly what was happening in my head that made me think I should write about people older than me, going through things I had never experienced. (This, perhaps, is why those short stories never went anywhere other than that folder on my hard drive!)
Of course, the truly odd aspect of this little trip down memory lane was reading later, post-college stories, and seeing glimmers of the YA career I would someday have: Stories about adults that primarily dealt in flashbacks to the teen years. Stories about college freshmen. Even a story I now tongue-in-cheekily refer to as “Girl Toy.” (Seriously. It has child abuse and baseball in it. What the hell, Barry?)
Anyway, it’s just interesting (to me and probably no one else) to see that as my skills matured, my target audience (and area of primary interest) got younger. I even have an entire novel I wrote about ten years ago in which the characters are allegedly in their mid-twenties…but anyone reading it can tell that these guys are really teens.
Now that I am a doddering old man, I have plenty of life experiences to draw on, and I could tell plenty of tales about guys going through all of those things I enumerated above…and more. Yet, I have no interest in doing so. The older I get and the more I see, the more I am drawn to telling stories about and for kids.
I don’t know what that means about me, if it means anything at all. But, hell, it makes me happy. 🙂