Some years ago my mother took us to her office on a Saturday so she could finalize a report before the Monday morning deadline. Opposite her desk was a typewriter, the first I’d ever seen in person. The details of it are fuzzy in my memory and the more I focus on them, the less vivid they appear. The keys were white and the body was green. I believe. Perhaps it was electric. Perhaps not.
My brother and sister let me have the first go-round with the machine. I committed to the page a list of characters. Harry was the main kid, I remember that. I typed the names of his parents, his siblings, his next door neighbors. My brother fidgeted, nagged. He wanted to play with the typewriter. It was his turn. He was right. The story was titled something like The Boy Who Lost His Mouse, or The Case of the Lost Mouse. I’d spent too long on the cast of characters. I typed up three sentences. Harry couldn’t find his mouse. He asked his parents if they’d seen the mouse. Or was Harry the mouse’s name? The parents reminded him that he’d loaned his mouse to his best friend, the boy next door.
I unrolled the sheet and my brother and sister read it. They laughed. I’d been at the typewriter for so long. I only wrote three sentences!
There are three elements of this memory that I often recall. First, the magnetic appeal of the typewriter. I wonder: did it call out to me because I am a writer? Or did I become a writer just to make this beautiful instrument sing?
Second, the dramatis personae. To this day, I can’t begin a story unless I know the name of the protagonist’s grandfather. A common critique of my work is that there are too many names.
Third, the missing mouse. There was a conflict, an investigation, and a resolution, all in three sentences. I’ve never again mastered the stark concision of that tale and it was the first story I ever wrote.
My name is Dan. Thanks for visiting my website.