For every man, woman, and child alive today, there’s stands roughly 10 ghosts. Every ghost is someone who lived in years past.
Maybe one of them lived in the far distant past. He or she sat around a fire with the other members of their tribe, the days kill roasting over the fire under a sky filled with stars. They’d eat, and talk. One of them would look up at the stars and active eyes and minds would connect the dots and figures would emerge from the stars.
And stories would be told. Maybe that patch of stars over there got connected to a grandfather who had led them for years. Now he looks down on them, still guiding them from the heavens. And someone would tell about his life. And the stories bring that person to life and he or she lives forever.
Maybe another ghost is a little more recent. He waded ashore at Normandy, made dry land, and that’s as far as he got. A bullet cut him down in the prime of life, his blood seeping into the sand and ocean. But he had a story. He had a story of parents and siblings, of playing ball, and learning in a school. His story ended there, and he became a fading picture in a family album or Bible. But his story is still there to tell.
Each and every one of these ghosts have a story. And as writers, sometimes we find ourselves telling them.
I began to realize that when I got notes back from my wife who also acts as my editor. “It’s good,” she said. “But we just got dumped into the middle of it all. Why did you write it?”
So I had to stop and think a little, and then I hit on it. The book needed a forward. So I wrote one. I took one of the characters and had him write it.
All the First Class of the Regulators (the name the six friends hung on themselves) are getting older. Will Diaz has long since retired and is enjoying a career as an Evangelist and writing historical fiction. They and the newer inductees have all come together to bury one their members. Afterwards, Will and Jonesy go horseback riding.
When they stop, Will tells Jonesy he’s thinking of writing their stories up. Jonesy chuckles, tells him that no one would believe them.
Will agrees, and when Jonesy asks him what the difference is between a fairy tale and a war story, Will answers, “A fairy tale starts with ‘once upon a time . . .’. A war story starts with ‘this is no shit . . .’”
They both laugh, and then Will looks out over the mountains they were riding through, and says, “Very well. None of it ever happened.”
And Jonesy finishes the forward with the words, “Once upon a time there were six friends who went to war . . .”
But the entire point is, a lot of it did. These people lived, and I found myself telling their stories. We mine their stories; turn them into deeds, and like the people sitting around the fires so long ago, we toss them up into eternity so they live forever.
So, write your stories, but make your story the best you can possibly write.