Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bird Writes - Kevin McClintock - Biggest Aha! Moments in Writing

I was 12-years-old, miles deep in the "chats" of Southwest Missouri, when I tried to save a bird. It was a beautiful Cardinal. Big-breasted and big-bellied, pregnant. It was sitting on the edge of a rusted piece of machinery that had once torn up the insides of the earth for lead and zinc deposits. Left in its wake were rusting hulks of mining machines and huge mounds of "chat" - the byproduct of those numerous mining operations.

I was with my friend Scott, and his brother Tony, in the late fall of 1982. He had just received a pump-action pellet rifle for his birthday, and we had ventured out into the wastelands to shoot some rusty cans. But instead, Scott had spied that Cardinal. And like most boys his age, he wanted to test his new gun on that bird. I stood there, torn. I was torn apart. Scott was my best friend. But I didn't want that bird to die. I'd always loved animals, and the thought of abusing them for fun, even at the age of 12, sickened me. So I began to scream and flap my arms just as Scott was aiming his rifle. Spooked, the Cardinal took flight. Scott, as expected, was angry, and he shot the rifle at me, purposely missing me - but not by much. The three of us trudged back home. Yeah, I was down because Scott was mad at me; on the other hand, I was secretly proud of myself. It was one of those "defining moments" grown-ups are always talking about to young sons and daughters. As we trudged into his front yard, Scott suddenly jerked up his rifle and fired. When I looked at what he'd shot, a Robin fell from a telephone wire. We ran over to it. The body still twitched, and there was an ugly red hole punched through its left eye. I felt sick. And Scott, my buddy Scott, stared at the bird for a second or two, dropped the rifle from his hands and began to cry.

Later that year, I wrote up this same story -- minus our names - for a school fiction contest, and it won an award. The teacher gushed at the "adult situations" I had used. I had written fiction for a few years -- even then hoping to some day be the next Stephen King - but those stories were about elfs fighting goblins, and simple flights of fantasy. This story, however, was different. It was this story that gave me my biggest "Ah ha" moment. It *was* a fiction story. It read like a fiction story. But it wasn't like any of the other fiction stories I'd scribbled down on paper. The story was different simply because I had written what I'd known. And any good writer, or good editor, or good instructor of good writing, will tell you first and foremost that a writer *must* write about what he or she knows - no exceptions. I did. And I learned so much from that story. And from my friend Scott. And that poor Robin.

About the Author: Kevin McClintock (1970-) was born in Carterville, Missouri and has lived in the very-haunted Ozark Mountain region of Southwest Missouri for most of his life. He is an 18-year, award-winning veteran of journalism, presently working full-time as a special projects writer for The Joplin Globe as well as associate editor for the Joplin Metro Magazine. He is the proud writer of numerous horror and dark fiction stories, and has published 27 of them in various markets since mid-2009. His collection of five novellas, "No Vacancies," was published in 2011 by Dark Moon Books. He was named SNM's "Writer of the Year" for 2010. For more information, visit his page, "Author Kevin McClintock" on Facebook.

No comments: