This week we have a guest post from M. C. Piper, the author of the new self-published novella “Wanted: Passionate Hero, Experience Preferred.” Just some quick disclosure: Ms. Piper is a long-time mentoring client of our editor, Julie M. Rodriguez.
I’ve always considered myself a serious writer, wanting to address major world problems. To that end, I spent years laboring on an epic screenplay, answering once and for all (no hubris there!) the question, “What does it mean to be human?”
Then my day job fell apart. Things got so bad it was even suggested—I believe wisely—that I resign. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sure where I’d end up. The meaning of life would have to wait!
But I needed to keep writing something. Telling stories is just part of who I am, it seems. So I started to “indulge” myself. About that time, I started watching re-runs of an old western show that I used to watch as a kid. I was especially taken with one character, and began writing –just for fun—a piece about how it would be if I entered his world. It was humorous of course; there are so many things delightfully absurd in the world of the 1960’s western, where everything is neatly resolved by the closing credits.
It certainly didn’t seem like “serious writing.” After all, my “research” was capturing the essence of the character and his world by watching old re-runs on Youtube—hardly slaving over detailed research in the back recesses of some library! And while I decided to take it seriously, I wasn’t so sure this was “real writing.” (I even asked my writing coach— with some trepidation– if she’d consider working with me on it, which she readily agreed to do.), But I stuck with it because well—it was the only thing I could do.
And I loved it. It’s not difficult to understand why.
The story starts with Marcy Wilkins entering the world of her cowboy hero, Trace Gallant, via a computer worm. I have to admit there’s an element of wish fulfillment when she says:
“Here I am in a world where I need to be rescued by a heart-stopping gun draw, where I’d be afraid of really venturing out on my own (with a trigger-happy gun totting populace behind every rock) and where left to my own devices… I couldn’t make a mess of anything, learn something from it , and grow up. It’s tempting to immerse myself completely!”
Once Marcy was done playing around in Trace’s world, I had a slight problem. The story just wasn’t over yet.
I’d come up with the idea that Marcy needed Trace to teach her what it means to be a hero in her own life. But how can you learn to be a hero when you’re constantly being rescued by someone else? When you don’t actually act on your own behalf? In Trace’s world, women are not expected to be heroes. And so I realized that Marcy needed a strong female mentor as well in order to learn what she needed to know. And thus, the saloon girl, Lili came into being.
It wasn’t hard to come up with the stimulus that propels Marcy back into her world. All it took was Trace attempting to comfort her by saying: “You’ll find another man to believe in.” (Alas, that an actual quote lifted from the TV show that inspired me!)
And that’s where my writing started to take a turn back to the serious. Not only does Marcy go back to the real world…but Trace, the saloon girl, and the villain Grimley St. Clair all follow along.
Predictably, when Trace tries to show her what it means to be a hero in her own life it becomes apparent what works in his world doesn’t always work in hers.
So when Marcy is singled out for a thorough inspection when she’s crossing into the States from Canada, Trace, as American as they come, tries to intervene on her behalf. The border guard can’t quite hear or see him, but he knows something was said by someone. Realizing an irregularity of any kind could have serious consequences, Marcy pleads with Trace as they head off to the waiting room:
“You can quote the Constitution to fill in a storyline but if you don’t have a valid U.S. passport, please don’t say anything!”
For the first time in his life, Trace has to admit that he doesn’t always know what to do in any given situation. Of course, I didn’t want to minimize his contributions to the story, either! Like any story, there are some dramatic twists and turns. I don’t want to give away the ending, but over time it becomes clear that staying in the real world could have drastic consequences for Trace.
In the end, I really enjoyed writing it. And, of course, like any writing it took off on its own.
I also discovered a new genre that works for me—the novella. I even discovered an idea for a series of novellas.
When working on this story, Julie suggested that I create an identifiable workplace for Marcy Wilkins (I don’t know where I’d be without her!). What came to me was that she works for Kootenai Brown, a personal advertising agency, where she helps the clients to become all they can be and let the world know. The problem is that Marcy is having trouble being all she can be — and so a Trickster-type character, Adolphus Cornelius Cartwright (ACC), introduces a computer worm into her computer to break her out of her rut. In the course of her adventures, she comes to learn what she needs to know to find fulfillment in her own life.
I’m going to continue the series with yet another employee of Kootenai Brown, who’s in need of similar kind of help. And sure enough, ACC comes to her aid, allowing her to access to her fantasy world, and in that experience learn what she needs to know. I’m already coming up with ideas about what her fantasy world could be, and what she needs to learn. And how—with the delightful help of ACC– it could all come about. Great fun!
And I’ve learned something very important about writing. If an obstacle like job loss appears, don’t despair. Write about it, in whatever way you can, as I did. It’s a good chance to be creative and it could turn out to be exactly what you need to go forward.
Thanks for reading. May the Muse be with you!