Friday, January 2, 2015

Writer's Imagination

Our friend Chuck who maintains Michigan's finest Secondary Roads responded to the invitation to name his favorite snippets from String Too Short to Tie (2014) by naming the series of tales as told by Uncle Jep.  I thought I might tell a bit about how those developed.

The first tale I wrote was, as I put it, an experiment in fiction.  The story seemed to generate itself in my head and flow from my fingertips onto the keyboard.  It did need some redacting before it was published as The Courtship of Otto Kranz.  I was sufficiently pleased with it that I decided to undertake a series of tales as told by the Old Uncle.  If you reread this first tale you will note that Uncle Jep appeared only as the narrator of the story.  He had neither name nor character.  I soon decided to give the gentleman a name, and I chose Jeptha Miller, aka Uncle Jep.  His character seemed to develop as the stories progressed.

At the time I picked the name Uncle Jep I was totally unaware that there is a character by that name on an apparently popular cable TV reality series.  In fact, I learned this only two days ago when I was googling Uncle Jep hoping to find my own creation. (I did.)  My Jeptha sourced his name from my family archives.  My father's paternal great grandfather was named Jeptha, as was his grandfather, along with ancillary uncles and cousins.  So the name has been in the family since 1769 at the least when my four greats grandfather was born in Hunterdon, New Jersey.

The package finally included fifty-two tales.  Four of them centered around a riverboat gambler named Slade/Sloan and were not told by Uncle Jep, but a character from them is referenced by the Old Uncle.  I posted these on Thursdays over the course of a year.  They are archived under the tabs "Stories" and "More Stories" which you may find at the top of the page when you visit STSTT.

As a general rule, I liked for each story to run to 600 or fewer words.  In this I was mostly successful, though a couple of them exceed the count.  I have long been a fan of the short short story, perhaps because my attention span is limited.  I like a good tale succinctly told.

If you followed the series, you possibly noted that the style evolved somewhat over time.  The first story, by design, followed lots of rabbit-trails and introduced extraneous characters that really did not propel the story forward.  In fact they did quite the opposite, causing some to wonder just who these characters were and what they had to do with anything.  It was a fun exercise, but I decided that Uncle Jep should get more to the point though I allowed him some wandering and wool-gathering, as is the wont of some older fellows.

Since this account is now five hundred words, I shall bid you good day!


Vee said...

Jeptha - I wonder when that name will become popular again.

I did now realize there were 52 accounts of Jep's activities. Definitely a commitment as a writer!

Secondary Roads said...

Thanks for the Uncle Jep back story. That was fun and interesting. Thanks also for the shout out. -- Chuck

vanilla said...

Vee, Jeptha is a good name. The biblical Jephthah was a powerful man, though a rash one as well, but true to his word.

One tale for each Thursday over the course of a year.

Chuck, thank you. I am honored to point people in your direction, though you are not likely to garner many new readers through this blog, for in large measure we already have the same pallies.

Sharkbytes said...

Well, the wandering told us who Uncle Jep was, as much as anything.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, it did give a snapshot of his character, though blurry around the edges, perhaps.