Giant Rubber Gorilla

The Giant Rubber Gorillathe opening story in the collection of 17 that make up Claiming One is one I’m most proud to have written.

The story revolves around a Cousin and Aunt who grudgingly perform their weekend duty of taking a mute cousin for her weekly drive around town.  A Board and Care facility is mentioned.  They speak over her head, referring to her as ‘this one’, and ‘her’. And the unreliable narrator herself, the unspeaking, un-named cousin in the backseat, brings us both a rational view of these two in the front seat, while also giving us off-kilter observations like this:

… then they both start giggling, high, tinkly —like trembling nerves when you’ve sprinkled glitter on them so they’ll show to the light. 

Who’s right in this tale? Who’s to blame? Does anyone hold the truth?

As a new writer, how do you decide how a story idea will be fleshed out?  For me, I happened to be in the backseat of a car when both the driver and the front passenger got out to pump gas and go get snacks at the same time. Leaving me there, with the ringing of the car doors in my ears. Once they got back into the car I joked, What am I, your crazy cousin you can ignore when you take her out for Sunday drives? And Boom – I had a story idea.

But the places I was able to take that story once I started scribbling (on the back of envelopes and paper bags I begged from the passenger’s handbag, and when we stopped for lunch - the backs of our paper place mats in the coffee shop) were far from anything in my life. I really let my imagination fill the motivations, reactions, and actions of this trio of characters.

Think of that when you have an idea, and feel ready to write. Ask yourself how far from your initial brainstorm you can take your work. Even if you take the work far afield of its original spark, you don't need to stay where it takes you. But consider how shallow your imagination might remain if you've never experienced having ventured there.