What I Write About & Why

November 24, 2011

Read, paper sculture

A Saturday drive and a family secret though the eyes of a never-named mute passenger.   An estranged father, all he reaches for, and everything he can’t hold onto. The suddenness of a teen getting what she’s wished for.  A runaway wife ends up more than just free of her brutal husband. A hardworking mother’s rationalizations and promises.  A girl’s odyssey while in a  Navy psyche ward.  A youngster’s role as little-mother in a hectic family.   A dying woman and the young storyteller she invites into her life.  A study in brotherhood, death and denial.  A phone call from an old flame making amends goes askew. 14 Darvocets results in a fateful afternoon.   The moral decision a youngster makes in spite of family alienation.  A woman with a sudden windfall dwells on what she’s leaving behind.  A chilling flash fiction piece studies family ties.  An alcoholic makes all the wrong decisions.  The haunting night before a troubled woman’s children are removed to care. A runaway teen, returned home makes a hard choice.

A reader once emailed me comments about a story of mine. She wrote: Why do you always break my heart with your stories?  I have to tell you, as I did her: I don’t write them that way; they just sometimes seem to do that.

I’m serious about my stories, and I’m a serious creativity coach. But I’m not out to grab you by the throat. I use uncomplicated, calm words, they just seem to slice and nip at readers all the same. Lo Siento.  I’m sorry to bring you close without the warning. Let me amend that here:


My stories may move you. You may think: Oh, wow. Or Damn!  Or possibly, you’ll say, That line just comes back to me and in my mind, that scene keeps repeating. 

Maybe your view of life is from streets similar to the ones I’ve frequented, and these stories may have little effect; except recognition. That could happen. I take sense memories, like joy, despair, anticipation, guilt, bewilderment, confusion & freedom, and use them to build places for my characters to live. We’ve all felt those things at one time or another. I use that sense memory mortar & brick to build the lives I create on the page.  Smooth walkways, nothing to trip over. Doors cracked open enough that you don’t need to bother knocking. Windows to the left and right for a peek inside.  Nothing new or unique. Just slices of life. I only suggest you take the risk. Go on, look.


4 Responses to “What I Write About & Why”

  1. Dear EJ, I love the diversity of your writing topics and the way that not a one of them is trivial or mundane. They all sound like worthwhile and moving topics. And, since I am embarked on a new writing direction, including memoir pieces and character portraits, I much needed your advice on how to build memorable pieces. Donna Cunningham

  2. ejrunyon Says:

    Have you considered ‘Sense Memories’ to trigger your bouts of writing?
    That is — What feelings trigger your memories? What emotion causes your ‘memorable pieces’ to rise in your mind?
    There are prompts galore to get a person started on this type of writing.
    One of my short stories was begun from a writing prompt with a teacher of mine in 1996 or so; Carla Tomaso, author of Matricide, who told us all to write for fifteen minutes with the prompt ‘First thing in the morning…’ For me, bent on fiction at all cost, a Voice sprung to mind — one with a problem to deal with. That fictional voice dug into my own reality, ‘what I knew’ — my personal history of being a foster child, and I found myself writing: “First thing in the morning they’ll be coming for my babies.” I took the dread of that situation and the finality of what that moment must have felt like for any mother in that moment and gave that character a voice to process that small window of time with her children. It’s a sliver of my own real knowledge wrapped in a voice I recognize and could help onto the page.

    I firmly believe that memoir and character portraits can work the same way. I tell my clients about this often. I think you might call it ‘Creative Non-Fiction’. Take a cherished photo, give voice to the ‘characters’ you find in that photo. Imagine who they were at that instance in time. Write from what you can guess and a sliver of what you know for sure. Think about narrating in ‘Two Voices’, the innocent one from that time long ago, and the Knowledgeable one of today.

    Happy Writing.

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