Earlier this summer, I published a short story called “Sunk.” I wanted to share the inspiration behind it in this blog post. The quotations are from Nancy Lamb’s book The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories.
When I was growing up, my mother would tell my sister and me stories about her childhood. She grew up in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, and she spent her summer days outdoors from morning until night with her four older brothers and the neighborhood kids. They had all kinds of adventures in the woods that surrounded their homes, along with their regular hangout of Heckman’s Hill.
One summer day, my mother’s older brothers dared a neighborhood boy named Timmy to ride his bike down Heckman’s Hill. Well, he accepted the dare, and his bike sank to the bottom of Glade Lake. Her brothers were not as creative in ways to help Timmy retrieve it, but they were very creative in ways to help him make money to pay his parents back.
The only tough part was figuring out how to start the story. Nancy Lamb discusses the idea of the “opening gambit” (37). My first idea to begin the story was having Tyler dare Peter to ride his bike down Heckman’s Hill. While I liked it, it also did not seem right. Next, I tried using the sentence: “I knew it was a mistake the moment it was over.” But that did not seem right either. Finally, I closed my eyes and pictured what would happen if I began the story as Peter’s bike was sinking into Crescent Lake. That, according to Lamb, is a way to “uncover a problem” (37), so I began the story in medias res, or “in the middle of things” (“In Medias Res”). After receiving valuable feedback, I decided to once again rewrite the beginning of the story, so I would not give away the climax in my opening.
This story, to me, has an image that I can feel and touch. I have been to the top of Heckman’s Hill and rode a bike with the wind in my hair. I have also walked in the footsteps that my mother and her brothers walked in to get to Glade Lake. I even ventured out to the furthest part on the pier, where Timmy’s bike entered the water. I even thought on a very clear day, that I could see the reflection of a silver Stingray bike at the bottom of the muggy lake!