The Story Behind the Story: “Wind”

A year ago, I wrote a one-page story based on an incident in my childhood. Then I wrote two more. These stories, I decided, were the beginning of a longer story, maybe even a novella. Twenty pages in, I quit. The story was too fragmented, too disjointed. And the child, his voice, his naiveté, annoyed me to no end.

I chopped the “novella” into a few smaller pieces, tossing out several pages of fluff, and began to write more, though maybe it’s that I was writing less. As I wrote, the stories switched back into short, contained pieces, flash. I felt secure in this, relieved that I didn’t have to find my way around a plot that hadn’t been working, and it made sense. I was borrowing from my own life, my past, which I see in episodic glances. Writing smaller, contained pieces felt right. Flash enabled me to dig deeper into the child’s psyche, to explore events, real or imagined, outside the timeline of a single narrative. Fiction granted me the freedom to fill in events I couldn’t recall.

I wrote one story per day, drafting them in quick one or two page spurts. With each story, the child began to seem less naïve, more complex.  I was still annoyed by him, and I didn’t want to know him, not even his name. In order to get past my annoyance, I had to separate myself from him. As I revised, I changed more details, moving further from the facts of my life.

I ended up with fifteen pieces. The opening story, “Wind,” is based on a night during a Boy Scout campout I went to in the Texas Hill Country, a night I knew I would die.  Before the storm, I, like the child in the story, was angry that my mother was at the campout. I wanted to roughhouse and wander off the campsite with the other boys. I tapped into this anger as I wrote.

The more I wrote, the more the narrator began to feel like his own person, though I still never learned his name. The adults around him refer to him as “child.” Of course I felt a need to change that, to turn him into someone less annoying, but I decided to leave it, to allow him to grapple with the complexity of children recognizing how little control they have.

About Bernard Grant

Bernard Grant lives in Washington State, where he is an MFA candidate at the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program. His stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Orchard ReviewStirring, and Fiction Southeast, among others. His chapbook Puzzle Pieces, a winner of the 2015 Paper Nautilus Press Debut Series Chapbook Contest, is forthcoming from Paper Nautilus Press. He was awarded a 2015 Jack Straw Fellowship and serves as Associate Essays Editor for The Nervous Breakdown.