Becoming a Storyteller Pt. 1

I’ve always made up stories.

I watched westerns and war movies with my Dad. With my Mom, I watched fantasy and science fiction. In my head, and to whoever would listen, I mixed and blended these stories into wonderfully weird pastiches where John Wayne-like characters had showdowns in outer space with robots and the occasional dinosaur. I populated these stories with characters named after family pets, which led my Mom to believe the stories were about dogs in space.

Dogs in space might have made more sense.

I often played out these fantastic adventures in my backyard, pacing around in circles. Sometimes, this was complete with sound effects. Star Wars in particular caught my attention with sound, and I did my best to imitate the whoosh of the lightsaber, the zap of blaster fire, and of course the iconic roar of the TIE fighter as it screamed across the big screen. Basil Poledouris’s score for Conan added background music.

Most of my stories were science fiction of the space opera variety, but I borrowed liberally from every source. The Land that Time Forgot gave me dinosaurs. Conan gave me sword fights. Star Trek (TOS) gave me a love of technobabble. Battlestar Galactica (1978) gave me killer robots; I cleverly disguised the cylons in my stories by redubbing them nilons. When I later related those particular stories to adults, tales of the killer nilons resulted in a fair number of laughs.

No matter which stories I made up, from dogs in space to copycat killer robots, I wanted to share them. To anyone who would listen, I would offer lengthy recounting of  starships and barbarian warriors defending some appropriate version of the Alamo side-by-side with gunfighters and laser-swordsmen.

My mom was my first audience, but she always encouraged me to share the stories with my Dad and my aunts and uncles as well. Most adults will humour a seven-year-old for a while, but I was a very (very) long-winded seven-year-old, and the stories never stopped coming. In retrospect, I believe my mom found my regaling of her siblings funny. Nevertheless, reluctant audience or not, enough of my family listened to encourage me to keep telling.

This “inscrutable exhortation of the soul”* would eventually lead me to writing. I was in second-grade when I first set pencil to paper and attempted to record one of my stories.

*With thanks and apologies to Bill Watterson for that phrase.


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