Delusions of Grandeur • R.D. Rhyne

April 23, 2020

Behind the Scenes: The Traveler

With each new story published, I plan to follow with a behind-the-scenes look at how it came about. This allows me to put each story in context, and dive into some technical details, which you might find interesting.

The Traveler started life in my writing journal as a writing exercise.

This past November I was in Salinas for writing vacation. Over a long weekend I parked myself in a hotel to plan and draft the first part of my novel: Nebula Squad[1].

Each day I slept-in, wrote for 4 hours, took a break for food, then wrote for another 4-8 hours. It was four glorious days in The Zone™.

During one of those food breaks—after ordering the Prime Rib special, with a root beer—I tapped out a quick story on my iPhone[2]:

A traveler from out of town sits down at a table.

He sits facing away from the door. Towards the TVs showing a regional sports favorite.

“I'll take the prime rib special with a house salad. Root beer to drink.”

Nothing more than a simple, boring description of what I was doing[3]. From there I imagined a conversation between the stranger and another patron of the diner:

An older woman from an adjacent table speaks up.

“You're not from around here.”

“Do I stick out?”

“You blend in fine, I reckon. But you ordered the Prime Rib special. Lou in the back tries to sneak in horse meat on the weekends.”

At the time, I didn’t know the stranger’s name or that the older woman would become Eunice. They were pieces on a chess board, not characters.

As I cut into my delicious prime rib[4], I considered life as an out-of-town stranger. Imagined my lunch as a story.

Then I put it away and moved on with the weekend. It was a writer’s exercise and never meant to be anything more.

Months later, I needed material to publish for the site launch. None of my short stories were polished enough, so I thumbed through my writing journal.

I chose The Traveler as the first piece of fiction I would publish. Warm memories of that prime rib, and the sense of adventure in the midst of my writing trip drew me back into the story.

However, it needed work before it was fit to be my first impression. The story needed to grow past a poor documentary of my November lunch. That required defined characters, with obstacles in their path.

In addition to pages of story fragments in a writing journal, my Ulysses library is littered with pieces of three novels and several short story projects.

The backstory for one of those short stories centers around the abduction of Thad Michols. I found a place for my stranger and importunate diner patron, and a world where horse meat masquerades as beef. Most of all, I found conflict.

After a week-long edit, the published version of The Traveler became a prologue for a larger story.

The response to my first story has been a warm welcome back to the web. The site launched earlier this week without analytics. I wasn’t confident in that decision, until the tweets and text messages starting rolling in.

The enthusiasm has exceeded my expectation—and caught me a little off guard. Many of you have asked: “When do we get to read more of the story?”

At the beginning of this week there wasn’t an immediete plan to finish this untitled short story. But after your response to The Traveler, I’m making one.

The story is already plotted, and character biographies have been written. I even have a few pages of manuscript.

It occurred to me that I could publish the story as a serial. I’m not sure the schedule or frequency just yet. But I'm running with this idea.

Once I have more manuscript drafted, I'll let you know.

Thank you for reading!

  1. At some point I need to tell you more than the title. ↩︎

  2. In Ulysses, of course. Have I mentioned how much I love Ulysses? ↩︎

  3. It was a Saturday in November, so the “regional sports favorite” was college football. My favorite sport, in my favorite time of year. ↩︎

  4. Most definitely not horse meat. ↩︎