by Julia Buckley
The subject of this article in a self-made disguise (his main medium is silly putty).
One day I bought my son a blank journal so that he could occupy himself while I worked at his brother's school event. He took the journal into a corner and began to write. He created his own cover, a dedication page, an ISBN number, and a price (two dollars and thirty cents). He launched right into a novel with this compelling and vaguely Dostoevskian beginning: "It all started with my father. He was a general of war." He wrote and wrote and wrote in his little corner of the school cafeteria, and he didn't stop until he had a complete novel, which he entitled The Vengeance Story.
I should mention that Graham is nine, and that is why I considered his feat so remarkable (and I still haven't gotten over that first line). The story centers around the narrator, whose father was killed by a man named McJerk when the narrator was only two years old. Since then, he has cultivated a burning desire for revenge. I could learn a writing lesson from my son: his story is all action, all the time. The cover sports a variety of weapons that the narrator uses against the unfortunate (but undoubtedly evil) McJerk.
After his father's death, the narrator says that life is very hard for him and even more so for his mother, who has a difficult time raising this angry child. His mother dies when he is fifteen, and the narrator is briefly suicidal; he decides instead to consult a psychiatrist. Take note, Liz Zelvin: my son's narrator writes that "after a year of psychology, I was okay." Hurrah for psychology!
When the narrator first encounters McJerk, they are in a library. Our hero uses a giant dictionary to strike his foe, and then a chair. Then they are thrown out by a librarian. Hurrah for librarians!
However, the narrator continues in his quest for McJerk, and purchases "an assault rifle . . . but something happened to the gun; it was broken. So I purchased an AK-47. It was the biggest gun they had."
Ironically, I never let my sons read my books, because I feel that they are too adult for them, and potentially too violent. Therefore, I can safely say that this book is not at all influenced by the books written by me, but probably much more so by the many adventure movies Graham has seen.
Still, I found many distinctive aspects of his story, and the most striking thing is that he wrote it--with all of its separate chapters leading up to a final conflict and a denouement--all in one sitting. Wrote it, you might say, almost obsessively, which is exactly the way that I write. Once that central idea is in place, I need to write copiously for fear that I will lose my place or forget something.
I am curious to know if a person can inherit their actual writing style. I once read that both Dostoevsky and Van Gogh (both extremely prolific writers) had the same type of epilepsy, and which potentially caused their desire to write--that is, their brains dictated the volume of their work.
I wonder if heredity supplies similarities between a person's creative mind and that of her (or his) children. In any case, I'm thrilled with the fact that my son simply decided one day to write an entire book, and then did so. I'll leave you with a thrilling action sequence from The Vengeance Story:
"The hill got higher and higher until there was a bridge. I hid under a bush after knocking him on the ground. He got up and had his gun out; he passed me and I popped out and said 'Stop!'
As you guessed, he hit the gun out of my hand. So I tripped him and chased him across the creaky bridge and kicked him in the face. The hill was so high it was almost a small cliff . . . and then he snuck a knife from his pocket . . . "
copyright Graham Buckley 2008