Finding that Elusive Fossil by JJ White
“Let's get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn't to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft
If you’ve already read, On Writing, then Stephen King has already set you straight that there’s no story fairy to conjure magic ideas and plots for nascent, or even best-selling authors. You’re pretty much on your own to find that once in a lifetime tale that brings success, fame, and untold wealth. After you’ve achieved that goal then you can write about anything and somebody will buy it just because you wrote it. King also said, “A story is a fossil you find on the ground, and you dig it out slowly, gradually uncovering its full potential.” which contradicts his earlier quote, somewhat. Still, I’m a firm believer in King’s philosophy and have searched and found those elusive fossils to use in my novels. These metaphorical fossils can be just one idea or several that morph together into a cohesive yarn someone will be interested in reading and even possibly moved by. These rare fossils inspire you to write something that will keep you and your reader interested for three hundred pages and hopefully more.
In my novel, Prodigious Savant, I found two fossils to inspire me to labor tirelessly for eight months until I had an honest-to-God book, tangible and complete. The first fossil was an antique and the other, brand new. When I was a young boy growing up in Vermont, I played centerfield for the South Burlington Braves in the local Little League. During an extra inning game, one Saturday, my team had used up all three of our pitchers. Our manager decided to use me as a relief pitcher since I was the only player who could throw a ball from the outfield to the infield. As I threw my first pitch toward home plate, a huge explosion rocked the field, knocking all of the players and some of the parents to the ground. Two teenage boys had been shooting their .22s at a construction shed filled with dynamite over at the I89 construction site, a half-mile from the ballpark. Besides blowing out all the field lights, the resulting explosion killed one of the boys and blinded the other. I still have vivid memories of that blind teenager riding on the back of a bicycle-built-for-two with either his mother or father steering in the front. I always thought I would write his story, someday.
My other fossil came from a television piece about, Jason Padgett, an acquired savant. Jason had been partying at a local karaoke bar, when at the end of his night he was mugged outside the club by an assailant who hit him a vicious blow to the left side of the head. Much later, Jason woke from a coma in possession of new-found genius abilities in mathematics and memory. Apparently the damage to the left-anterior temporal lobe made the right hemisphere overdevelop, giving him these amazing abilities, and all without the usual mental disabilities that plague prodigious savants.
My job was to take these two fossils and meld them into a coherent and hopefully interesting story about Gavin Weaver, a seventeen-year-old every kid, who in 1962 Vermont, survives that explosion, waking with not just one genius ability but several, including mathematics, memory, music, and the arts. Gavin struggles with the celebrity his savant talents bring him, while fighting the demons that drag him toward madness. A little dramatic, I agree, but my point is any experience can be turned into a gripping novel if you know where to look.
According to Dr. Darold A. Treffert of the University of Wisconsin, there are fewer than one hundred reported cases of prodigious savants in the world. Those few who possess the savant syndrome all have an island of brilliance that allows them to excel in some remarkable talent. Unfortunately, they all share various developmental disabilities.
Burlington, Vermont, 1962. Seventeen-year-old Gavin Weaver survives a dreadful explosion, six hours of brain surgery, and thirty days in a coma, to awake possessing not just one savant talent, but several, including art, music, mathematics, and memory, and all without suffering any of the usual mental disabilities associated with head trauma.
The odds are slim Gavin will survive both the internal and external conflicts that keep him from the one thing he wants most, the girl he’s loved since childhood.
First place, Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award.
Bio: J. J. White
A native of Vermont, J. J. was dragged kicking and screaming to Central Florida by his parents when his father relocated to work at the Kennedy Space Center. J. J. was a precocious and adorable little boy who overflowed with the creative juices that would prepare him for success as a noted author. Unfortunately that was stifled at a young age by an overwhelming desire to take things apart to see how they work. Thus, the left side of the brain won the battle over the right and he became an engineer. He graduated from The University of Central Florida with a B.S. in Engineering and has worked primarily in the electric and electronic engineering field for most of his career. While this was going on he married the lovely Pamela and they raised two daughters who grew into wonderful young ladies.
A while back, as luck would have it, he ruptured the L5 disk in his back playing tennis as if he were eighteen–years–old, again. With nothing to do but lie on his stomach for days on end, the right side of his brain saw an opening, and pounced on the left brain and thus the creative juices once again surfaced.
Since that time he has penned seven novels and over two hundred short stories. He has had articles and stories published in several anthologies and magazines including, Wordsmith, The Homestead Review, The Seven Hills Review and The Grey Sparrow Journal. His story, The Nine Hole League, was recently published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, Volume 13. He has won awards and honors from the Alabama Writers Conclave, Writers-Editors International, Maryland Writers Association, The Royal Palm Literary Awards, Professional Writers of Prescott, and Writer’s Digest.
He was recently nominated for the Pushcart Prize for his short piece Tour Bus, published in The Grey Sparrow Journal. His novel, Prodigious Savant is scheduled for publication by Black Opal Books in October, 2014, to be followed by Deviant Acts in 2015. He enjoys writing, surfing, golf and tennis and lives in Merritt Island, Florida with his understanding wife, editor, and typist, Pamela.
Website URL: www.jjwhitebooks.com
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