Douglas Clegg

Where Stories Are Born

August 25th, 2019

Stories are often born in the places where your mind lives in contradiction or even open rebellion to the world in which you interact. This may be escapism for some, anger at injustice to others, a deep well of imagination for others. They can take many forms.

All my stories are based in some ways on something I’ve experienced in life — or something that’s befallen me or someone close enough to me that it elicited an emotional response from me.

But the writing itself begins when a face, a person, and then a character or two somehow arrive.

The Faces - coming from Douglas Clegg. Sometimes, stories come from dreams, also, or noticing something during the day that brings with it a sudden sense of absurdity in the realm of social interaction, perhaps the artifice of how we all get along.

Having said that, none of my stories are “autobiographical,” by any means, at least in the strictest sense. I delve into the deep well of dreams and fears with a reimagining of reality along those lines, with regards to story.

My goal is to erase most of the kernel on which a story is based so that it becomes something more important than “what happened,” or “how it felt,” and becomes meaningful beyond a day or a moment or a glance.

I’m finishing a novelette (or short novella, depending on your hair-splitting) called The Faces which begins with an anonymous stranger eavesdropping on the conversation of a young man in his late twenties with a woman of similar age as they mention an upcoming party that this young man named Harold doesn’t wish to attend.

The story came from the edge of dreams for me, speaking of that street corner.

Not quite dreams; just the point where you’re about to plunge into the depths of sleep — the part of falling asleep when your eyes have only recently closed and your lids are darkened shades upon which upcoming dreams might be projected even while you’re still aware of an itch on your skin or a sound elsewhere in the bedroom.

I stood on a busy street corner waiting for the light to change when I glanced over in the crowd of people now walking with me at the crosswalk to the other side of this wide boulevard.

I zeroed in on one particular person in the crowd as if he (or she) was more interesting than any of the others, perhaps even someone familiar. Almost immediately this person stopped as the crowd moved on. The person turned and looked at me and  froze in place while her or his face (depending on the night) began to melt and twist into a grotesquerie.

This has happened more than five times, let’s say, although I didn’t count up the nights. Not consecutive nights, either. A man or a woman, young or old.

Each night I opened my eyes within seconds as if I couldn’t take the transformed face any longer. Was I scared? Unnerved?

Why? Was I afraid I was losing my mind a little? Why that face? Why that strange feeling of familiarity when the person stopped and stared at me?

Why did I  not continue following the crowd across the street? Why wait with this newly-born gargoyle in the dream? It was nearly cartoonish, that magma flow of face that continued to twist and transform as if there’d be an end-face, a visage finale, of a monstrous sharp-toothed fish from the deepest trench of the ocean?

Nearly around the same time I saw a photo of someone wearing a costume of an old time cartoon character. This made me think of something that was both hilarious and deeply disturbing.

The story’s first 10 pages raced out of me after that. I knew the meaning in the horror of that briefly recurring pre-dream.

Hoping to get the story out soon to my group. You’re invited to sign up over there if you think you might enjoy some pre-publication stories over the next 12 months.

Hope to see you there,

Douglas Clegg

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