I was there with ‘what was’… in ‘what is’… and next to ‘what will be.’
My projects (both long- and short-form, for clients and my own work) include nonfiction and fiction. They are not just my work, not just what ‘I do.’ They are vehicles that afford me the opportunity to travel in time and to places often far, far away (and some that have never been and never will be). And in the process of the writing, they transport—and in some ways, transform—me.
Good writing—a story, whether short or long—is your own Tardis, it’s H.G. Wells’s machine… a wrinkle in time, a wormhole or a fold in your universe that enables you to go—to be—wherever and whenever the writer takes you. All that just from words and imagination, the means of conveyance. Professional writers move readily back and forth, seamlessly through past—present—future. And can take you along for that ride; carrying you through space and time.
Readers remember writers that can tell good stories about ‘what was,’ ‘what is,’ and even, ‘what might be.’
One client project, recently, has me spending ‘time’ in the first century Common Era (63/64 CE) Judea and at sea, off its coast on a Roman grain ship sailing from Caesarea to Rome. That novel (historical fact-based fiction; book one of a four-book series), is fascinating work shaping into a great story. I just got this in an email from my client (about the rough draft scenes I’ve been delivering to him): “Hey Dennis: I like what I am reading and find that I look forward now to each next scene to see what you have come up with.” [Yesterday morning in a phone conversation, he told me, “My wife is enjoying them too!”]
And I’ve also written stories of the future, set in times to come (or perhaps never to be) and on distant planets. And had readers tell me, “I loved it. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop until I finished. Your writing is very descriptive; I felt as if I was there.” Or “I love it. Charming and witty…” and when one story was R-rated, laced with satire, snark and mature audience things, “This is not for the kids, but it was fun reading! Had fits of laughter while reading this short story. Loved it!” Mostly what you want the reader to tell you is that what you’ve written has touched them. Here’s something said to me about one of my stories (science fiction): “Quite how you portray such things through mere words never fails to amaze me.” And, “Just finished reading it, and you certainly have to keep building on this story. The world wants more of this Dennis. ? I really liked it and it especially hit its stride once you toned down the Sci Fi techno terms from the first chapter. The humanness in it, the small touches and grounded everyday people, their little things, doings and feelings is what sold me. The swift action itself was made the stronger because of the mushy stuff, and vice versa, a very well-balanced story – a little Game of Thrones’esque in that regard. Well, different times and writing of course, but part-brutal action has its well-deserved place in a good character driven fictional story and I think you did that balancing act very well here.” [You can find the above in the 32,131 words worth of comments I’ve received from readers, here.]
Recently, January 24th and 25th, I was firmly in the 21st century, in midtown Manhattan. On the 25th, I attended the Page One news meeting at The New York Times and then got to see some of the building and their operations. Seeing a bit of their workday real-time (for three+ hours) was great, but there’s some wonderful history there too. Especially in their newspaper morgue in the sub-basement of the nearby old Herald-Tribune building.
‘Three levels below ground, in a nondescript building beside The New York Times’s headquarters–and hardly a stone’s throw from Times Square, one of the most frenetic intersections on the planet–lies an unexpected and strangely quiet repository.’ –Stephen Hiltner, The New York Times
I got to spend an hour+ there. After the door was unlocked, I entered into a wonderfully wild warren of paper and steel. A not always orderly space of rows upon rows, racks upon racks, old-heavy-thick-steel filing cabinets (the kind they have not made in decades) and stacks of storage boxes. Jeff Roth, the caretaker/archivist, locked the door behind us. Then I was introduced to Darcy Eveleigh, a New York Times photo editor and the creator and editor of The Lively Morgue (a Tumbler site for the morgue’s historical photos) and author of ‘UNSEEN – Unpublished Black History from The New York Times Photo Archives.’
Just past Darcy’s desk was one of those steel cabinets I mentioned above. This one had a security bar down its length that closed with a padlock. The label, affixed with tape peeling at the edges, read ADVANCED OBITS: the repository for the nearly 1,800 obituaries of the still-living notable and notorious, whose death would (or could) be deemed newsworthy.
I was surrounded by chronicled events—millions of articles and photos—from the 1870s to the 20th century… and standing next to a cabinet that contained death notices of people who had yet to die. I was there with ‘what was’… in ‘what is’… and next to ‘what will be.’
Being both a writer and a history buff, it was one of the most fascinating places I’ve been to in my life. It’s an experience that—as do all—helps me with my writing, which in turn creates opportunities to go to more times and places, some familiar, some unforeseen and never visited. And I get to take my readers with me. I hope you’ll come along.
If you’re not already following my writing, and interested in doing so, you can here.