Today’s edition of my behind-the-scenes look at my upcoming short story collection, Old Bones, takes us into a story that goes back several years. I will often attempt to give my story titles a double meaning, and Through the Eyes of a Child is one that does exactly that. It’s also one of a number of stories I’ve written with a child as the main character; maybe my first to do so, now that I think about it.
(I just now took a peek at the table of contents for Old Bones, and noticed this is one of three – arguably four, depending on how you look at it – stories which feature children as the main character. Over the years I’ve made an attempt to write not just from my own perspective, or that of others just like me. Writers, particularly beginning ones, will often inadvertently write every character as though they’re speaking through the character directly. Man, woman, child, modern, past, future: all written as if the character is a role being played by the author. I have attempted to avoid doing this, thus the inclusion of main characters that aren’t anything like me. The trick is to make the character relatable – if it’s a small child, make the reader believe these are the words and actions of a small child. I don’t always manage to pull it off, but it’s something I continue to work at.)
Several years ago my old friend J. Richard Jacobs – who I eulogized in this post – was looking for some stories for a themed anthology he called ‘Wunderkind’. He wanted stories about exceptional children, with special powers or traits. I thought about it for a little while, kicked around a few ideas, until I settled on what would ultimately become Eyes of a Child. The character, Tony, is a four-year-old boy with an IQ that’s off the charts. He also has a special secret ability that he doesn’t show or tell anyone about.
This is the part where I usually tell you about the incident or circumstances that inspired the story in question. I can’t do that today, because most of the plot behind this one stemmed from the game I play which I like to call “what if?” I almost never write to a prompt, but in this case I wanted to be included in this anthology, so I started kicking around ideas. Some of them were pretty far out, others simply lacked the impact I was looking for. I don’t know that it’s an entirely original idea – is anything, any more? – but I can’t recall ever seeing a similar story in my travels.
As with a lot of the things I wrote (and still write, if I’m being honest), I approached it with a sort of Twilight Zone mentality. I love the twist ending, and I like to think the reader doesn’t see it coming in this tale. The characters, Tony and his mother, Wendy, were named after real people. This, by the way, is something I frequently do, sort of an homage or tip of the hat to a friend or acquaintance. Most of the time I don’t tell anyone about this, not even the person in question. Rather, I prefer to let them stumble upon “themselves” when they’re reading and, hopefully, get a kick out of their inclusion (and if they don’t, well, then the story in question is purely a work of fiction and all resemblances to real people, living or deceased, is purely coincidental). I don’t want to spoil the story before you’ve had a chance to read it, but I will say that Tony was a real little boy I knew who passed away when he was about the same age as the boy in this story. Wendy is a friend of mine who has children of her own, though none (I don’t think, anyway) who can do the things Tony can.
The story satisfied my curmudgeonly editor, and he included it in his anthology. I was happy to share pages with many talented wordsmiths, all hand-picked by J. himself, and I was equally happy to have met with his approval. Wunderkind marked the third and final time my work appeared in the excellent Twisted Tails series, a fact I’m pleased and proud of. Now, I’ve chosen Eyes of a Child for inclusion in Old Bones, which I hope will bring pleasure and enjoyment to those who read it.
So that’s the story behind Through the Eyes of a Child. I hope you’re enjoying reading about the stories behind the stories, and will pick up a copy of Old Bones when it’s released. As always, thanks for reading. Be sure to pop over to my contact page and sign up to receive updates directly to your inbox.
Be safe, talk soon!