Back in the nineties, I wanted to be a writer. It really hit home for me in college, during my first year in summer school. I had flunked my second semester in college, and they wanted me to take some classes at a junior college to earn my way back in. I signed up for an English class and Social Problems. The English class was Freshman English 2; I had high enough scores to test out of the first semester. Everyone said not to take the class at the main college as it was a high failure rate and a ton of writing. They referred to it as their “weeding out” course. I don’t know if that was true or not, but I didn’t like writing at the time, so the shorter junior college version seemed to be the way to go. I was trying to decide another course to take when the teacher for the Social Problems course said if we sign up for his course, we would watch movies. Turns out after every movie, we had to write a paper to address the specific social problems represented in the movie in question.
My English teacher was a published author. Short stories in magazine, but still more than anyone I had ever known. In my first paper, I expressed how I hated analyzing other people’s writings. That it was a lot of guesswork about pretending you knew what the author was thinking. “Clearly, the author meant X by including this particular flower in this scene.” There was never anything clear about it. Maybe he just liked that flower for a totally unrelated reason. Maybe the character wears black for some other reason than feeling morose.
I gave an example of a student writing a paper in high school on the very subject of looking for symbolism and meaning in works of literature. She went on to explain how all of the characters and factions in The Wizard of Oz represented one of the countries involved in World War 2. It fit perfectly like it had been written about World War 2. Except it was published in 1900.
A week later, I am talking with her after class and she tells me she had a good laugh about that and agreed with me. At that moment, all that hatred of writing disappeared.
I started writing in notebooks and steno books. I was always carrying around something to write with. I remember driving to another city and my car just stalled. it was an old car, I was horrible at keeping it maintained, and it would sometimes just stall or not start. I was about 1/3 of the way there, and this was well before cell phones were in everybody’s pocket. I lost it. Yelling and screaming at my car, I even came to tears.
Then I saw a steno notebook and started writing. All my emotions just unleashed on the page. A couple of pages of writing and I felt great again. I turned the key, and my car started right up. It felt magical.
I had many story ideas that never finished.
There was the spy with amnesia. The people trying to help him recover his memory were his enemies and the people trying to stop him from remembering were his friends. I don’t think I ever worked out what he had forgotten, but it was something really bad.
I was a big fan of Target (Gene Hackman and Matt Dillon film) and Gotcha (Anthony Edwards film), so I came up with a story of a college student who meets a spy in a deli and gets drawn into that world because he is the “last person who spoke with him.”
There was the sequel to the original V series, where the main cast were teenagers during the first invasion and all had their lives turned upside down. The Visitors were back but in secret. They start taking out the original Resistance leaders and these guys get drawn back into it.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, it’s time. Time to dust off the old keyboard, drag out some notebooks and do the do that never got finished.
Randall Hall, author, comedian… what could have been…
…And will be soon.