IN THE BEGINNING...
by A. L. Paradiso
Please welcome A.L. Paradiso to the Writer's Journey Blog!
The beginning may be a good place to start. Since I was born in Italy and spoke nothing but Italian until first grade, English truly is my second language. I had the benefit of immersion and, since I was behind by a few years, intense study of English grammar and vocabulary.
My next writer-shaping experience came in college. When I took an extremely restrictive creative writing class and absolutely HATED it, I swore I’d never do any writing again. Yet, I thought I was OK with writing and even passed the class. Etymology became a happy hobby even before I knew what that meant. Looking up words in a real dictionary developed into an adventure as one word lead to another and became an interesting trip.
If I must narrow my choices of influences to the extreme, three consistently come to mind. Though I thought “I really should write these while I can,” it took another catalyst to push me there. That was the impressive influence of the Babylon 5 author and my understanding of the improbability of creating a cohesive tome of 122 ‘chapters’ of one overall arc with several mini arcs. Online discussions with him and his advice and story convinced me to write some forty-eight years after my vow of writing celibacy.
When I found a site that published stories free and gave me feedback in the form of reader viewings, comments and voting, I started under a pen name. Fifteen years later, I still write for that site and now have 138 stories published there with 5.2 million views. Looking back at my early ‘good work,’ I can see I have, thankfully, evolved. I’m leaving the early works there as a humbling lesson for me. A strong grammar foundation has been a great aide, but did nothing for style. Two Psych courses and studying examples of good writing style and tips, especially from Babylon 5, set my personal style and direction.
Those three influences I mentioned were all huge personal traumas. It was years before I felt I could tackle any of them. One, “Black Feline Love”, has been published in the Love is Love anthology. Briefly, it’s about one of the closest relationships in my life. It was with a cat I helped birth and her intensely close bond to me. She passed 11/3/98 and I still grieve and can’t think of her without tears.
The second trauma was about the one who got away. I named that one Just the LOML. We met in sixth year French class, accidentally became friends, and dated chastely. If only she were not engaged. When I submitted that story as a catharsis and it was rejected, I wasn’t sure if I were more relieved than sad.
The third trauma, thirty-seven years old, is still unwritten. Twenty-two painful years to attempt an outline, five more to decide a structure, and the rest to add the least painful notes of a total betrayal on that day. Currently, I plan to write it from five perspectives of four people and a totally ‘objective’ observer. Good luck, me.
Three interesting, or frightening, incidents stand out among others. In a chapter of a Pygmalion-type story, I couldn’t name a new character. Even after searching multiple baby name sites, nothing fit. When I decided to leave it blank, I wrote his entrance, “Hi, my name is Valen . . . ” WHAT! No idea where that came from. The only other Valen I know of is a B5 character who has zero resemblance to mine. Stunned, I couldn’t write for fifteen minutes.
While I was resolving my Dumbistan story, I struggled with where to set it. Ultimately, I chose a hot country, near the equator around the Eurasia border. I visualized an international airport with dense city roads becoming fewer as they left the city. The roads dwindled to a trident of roads with one road ending in a huge empty area.
My character would then walk ninety minutes to find the sole village of about 400 people in the tiny country. I wanted it primitive with hints of modern touches, a creek angled on its left, a large lake about twenty miles East for fish. Once I ‘saw’ that in my head, I opened Google Maps and searched the area for best fit. The second airport I found in that area is in Armenia. When I followed the roads North and East, they reduced to a trident which ended in one longer leg ending at a huge green field. There is a big lake to the East. When I looked West, there was nothing — until I zoomed in to the max and found a tiny dot. It was a village of 397 people with a creek to its left. I got goosebumps.
The third stunning experience was on the day I met my muse floating behind my right shoulder. Arms folded, she was staring sternly at my screen and shaking her head at a scene I tried to shoehorn into my Pygmalion story. Full details are in a story about that meeting called How I Met my Muse. She had a few words to add to that story and I knew better than to argue with her.
Even more stunning than seeing her — the spitting image of my main character — was that she literally prevented my fingers from touching the keys until I agreed to delete that scene. When my fingers reached an inch from the keys, they and my arms froze. When I moved them away, they flexed fine, then froze again an inch from the keys when I tried to continue. Heart pounding, I agreed to delete the scene, then I could touch the keys once more. If I recall that meeting in too much detail, I get goosebumps again.
I could tell you about writing my chapbook, Dragon Tales Collection, and several other shocking incidents, but I see my time is up.
Respect and listen to your muse. Heed my warning.
Bio: A. L. Paradiso now lives in upstate New York with three cats. He managed a series of oil company outlets; ran two of his own; became a mechanic, then truck driver, did direct sales; became a Field Engineer for mainframe computers. After ten years he switched to software and worked ten more years, receiving worldwide acclaim, as a System Programmer.
As of July 2021, he has shared 150 published stories with others online (over 5.2 million views), is in nineteen books (two more due by September), and three literary journals. He is listed in "Who's Who of Emerging Writers 2021"
and in THE BOOK OF BOOKS a catalog of 129 books and novels
Follow him at https://tinyurl.com/Paradiso-Author