As a Dis Geek, very few things in life make me as happy as dissecting the minutia of a trip to Disney World. Need to argue over the best touring strategy or the best snacks near Pirates of the Caribbean? I’m your girl. And since most people don’t need that kind of detail in their life, I’m a member of a Disney discussion board.
Not too long ago a mother posted a plea. Her family wouldn’t make it to Disney World this fall. Meaning her daughter’s souvenir popcorn bucket collection would be incomplete. Not important to you and me, but to a seven year old with six popcorn buckets, well, she’s been collecting them her whole life! The buckets were going for $35 on eBay, more than the Mom could afford. As it happened, I knew someone who was going to Disney World. I fronted the $12 and received the popcorn bucket.
But, of course, I’m an author. I couldn’t just send the bucket. It needed a story, a backstory, internal motivation, the whole thing. This particular popcorn bucket is in the shape of Mickey dressed as a Hitchhiking ghost from the Haunt
ed Mansion, so I made him a hitchhiker (duh) and gave him a love of history (because I live in a pretty historic place). I set up some internal conflict – popcorn buckets are assembled to go home with families, but this one also wanted to see historic sites.
The story was for a seven-year-old, not my usual demographic, and one that I figured would be more impressed with pictures. Tiger indulged me in an afternoon photo session, toting Mickey around to various historic sites. My first draft involved pirates, but while the pirate re-enactors were willing the final photos came out too scary. A golden retriever stepped in to be the villain who gave the popcorn bucket the push he needed to realize his days as hitchhiker were over.
I was excited about the story. I wanted to see it come together. I imagined that little girl reading it, following the links to the buildings. My story could provide the spark that started a life long love of history or the kindness that made a tough time better.
I mailed the popcorn bucket on Tuesday. I received back a very grateful thank you note from the mother. I posted the story on Wednesday and heard back…. Nothing yet. I expected to wake up to comments on my story, corrections, criticism, but it was viewed 105 without a peep.
I realized my mistake this morning. To me the most important part of the whole experience was the story. What could I write with a popcorn bucket as a prompt and the nearby region as a setting. How could I make something assembled in a factory and devoid of life into a character? Because I’m who I am, I wanted to teach as well, reading is more fun when you learn something new. But my audience wouldn’t want to read something dry so I’d need to-
Yeah. The story is the most important thing for me and yet, not for the other people involved. I realized this morning that it sums up the beginning of every writer’s career. You have fun writing something, creating it from nothing. That has to be enough, because in the beginning no one else cares. Maybe someday you’ll find people who agree with you, people who think the story is the best part, but you can’t count on that. If you do, you’ll be sunk before you start. You can’t write for the market or write to the trend. You have to write for yourself.