As I am concentrating with all my might on finishing the artwork for A BED FOR LITTLE CUB my mind does wander down strange alleys when I take a coffee break (usually around 3 am) and try to not think about the pictures on the drawing board.
Stories are always in the back of my mind, wandering about, trying to find their way through the clutter and cramped alleyways. And once they find their way to the front of my brain they tend to simply jump out, announce who they are, demand to be recognized and recorded, and then settle down for a bit.
So, for many years I have been thinking about writing a collection of short stories collectively titled “Nobody Likes an Ugly Child”. Pure autobiography about growing up the poor southern part of Virginia and the odd things that my family did and still do. I have these stories loosely mapped out and just need to sit down and write them. They are loosely connected to tell the story of my childhood and my family’s trials and triumphs.
But, at the same time, I have longed to write about another family, even more eccentric that live an interesting life in an alternate universe parallel to my own real upbringing. (If that makes any sense)
Around 5:37 am this morning this “other family” popped out of my head and right onto the paper blotter that sits beneath my computer. I quickly sketched what they looked like, and made notes of their names and personalities and just let them reveal themselves and their story. Characters seem to come to me with their names and personalities intact. I don’t sit and agonize over “naming” characters. Their names are always obvious and fitting.
And, as with all my stories, where this family lives is a vital part of the narrative. I don’t need to know the details at the start of jotting down the notes for the story. But I do need to know the basics: The name of the house is Wye’s End. It is situated on a remote, isolated corner of Cape Cod, built in 1748. Wye’s End is a large, rambling house crammed with whaling memorabilia, books, heavy wooden furniture, art, and secrets and mysteries. Wye’s End even has its own private train/trolley (and line) to take the family back and forth to the town (2 miles away). One of the most important characters in the story is the family dog, Scowther. He may be the narrator.
The opening lines are: They lived by the edge of the sea beside the salt marshes and dunes. By the edge of the sea they lived with me.
As soon as the illustrations are finished and out of the studio I’ll spend a week writing the basic plot outline and possibly a few chapters for The Wydeyes. This is the family name.
This is how a story begins.