Welcome to Stories Behind Stories (or SBS). I plan to do this for every hunk of words I publish for the sole reason that this is something I love to read about from other writers. Like really, how did they even come up with that idea? Did they plot it all out? Write by the seat of their pants? At dawn or at night? Or maybe by dictating during their morning commute? I’m always curious about the workings of other creative minds. So in case you’re one of those too, well, here’s where I give you the skinny on wrestling my muse.
Today I’m talking about Watch Me, Extracurricular Activities #1
The scene: My basement lair (aka desk crammed into the back corner between a kid-sized circus tent from IKEA and an old treadmill that’s gotten less love in the past decade than an overstuffed garbage dumpster at high noon.
Time: Too late. Because I’m always up too late.
I was in my second round of edits for Center of Gravity—my big, fat, shiny age-gap slowburn coming out in early October. As I debated the wisdom of a period versus a comma, a thought occurred to me: I’d been writing into a void. In essence, I suppose every writer is when they first start—especially when you’re writing your first draft (which in my case, no one ever ever sees).
For months, the echo chamber of my basement had been filled solely with the sound of me clacking on my keys.
I needed something else. An appetizer of sorts. A “HELLLLLOOOOOOO” shout into the vast canyons of the collective bookshelf.
I needed a short story.
Coming off of Center of Gravity, which is what I’d call a deep-dive read, I wanted something a little lighter, a little quicker, a little more off-the-cuff and raw. Something fun and in-the-moment.
I thought about some things I’d recently read. Then I thought about some things I liked to read, and I ended up with Nate and Eric. Roommates who don’t know each other all that well, but become intrigued with each other seemingly by pure happenstance and poor timing. As a card-carrying member of the poor timing society, that’s a theme that tends to show up in my stuff a lot. Caveat being: what if poor timing isn’t really poor timing after all? It’s a redemptive and hopeful thought, which I like.
My brainstorming session from there went something like this: Frat boys are interesting. Especially if they’re trying to squash their own internal questions of their sexuality in the face of fraternity culture. And hmmm, a roommate set up could be interesting as well. But how do I throw them together?
Ohhh, what if one roommate walks in on the other as he’s taking care of business? Okay, that could totally happen and maybe it would be awkward. But it seems relatively harmless, all things considered.
I needed more stakes.
So: what if Eric busted in on Nate but instead of freezing up, Nate finishes. Right then and there. And maybe it’s because Eric’s in the doorway watching. Mannnnnnn, how would that play out the next day? Oh my. I was off and running.
I’m not a particularly fast writer, I’m just kind of rabid about it. Or tenacious, if you will. But even for me, that first installment seemed to flow onto the screen. And I meant it to end there. It would just exist as this short, steamy intro to the workings of my brain. It could’ve worked. I read over it and it definitely qualified as a standalone erotic read with what I thought was a satisfactory HFN ending.
But I kept thinking about them. Wondering what happened next. So a week later, I decided to keep going…
I’ll talk more about the second installment after it’s out. But know this, I didn’t plot this thing out really. It’s a romance, so yeah, there’ll be a happily ever after, but I’m just as much riding along with you all discovering how they’re going to get there. I hope we’ll all enjoy the journey!