I decided to take a crack at writing a book as a sort of writing exercise, to see if I could make myself write more and do it faster. It took me about six months to write this short novel (to be honest, I wasn’t even sure at first if it qualified as a novel. I looked up the minimum word count, and found that some sources claimed at least 50,000 words, while other sources said it was anything over 40,000 words. And because my novel is a bit north of 49,000 words, I went with the latter.), so I can’t say for sure if I’ve become any faster at writing, but I can say for sure that I’ve discovered I really enjoy it.
The reason I went with aliens as a topic was because the stupid things terrified me. I mean, not all of them—I’ve loved the Alien series as long as I can remember, Predator was only ever thrilling, and The Blob was simply a horror movie. Even Killer Clowns from Outer Space failed to scare me as a kid. No, I mean the simple aliens—the “Greys” with the guitar-pick head and black, almond-shaped eyes. The aliens from Communion, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Fire in the Sky (Though those were closer to orange) were the worst offenders. Oh, and E.T. I always thought that little creep was scary, especially when it screamed. As an adult, I can totally get past the alien’s appearance and appreciate it for the beautiful film that it is, but as a kid? No way.
Maybe my childhood fear had something to do with growing up in the 90s, when several primetime shows about alien abductions seemed to be so popular (maybe they were never popular, though—it’s possible my dad just liked watching them and he was one of a dozen viewers total.) but they always gave me the creeps.
In particular, I remember shows like Sightings, which usually featured sad-looking people claiming to have been abducted. I remember a lot of dramatic stills of bloodied underwear, which had me rolling my eyes even as a young child, but something about it still freaked me out—it was a weird twist on monsters hiding in children’s’ closets, with the key difference being that instead of wanting to gobble kids up, they just wanted to stand over your bed and stare at you. I feared as a kid that I’d open a door and find one staring at me, whether the door led to a closet, a bathroom, or even the front door to a house. My older brother caught wind of this after a while and got really good at scaring the crap out of me for several years. Before too long, though, he didn’t have to try too hard; he would just whisper “Don’t wake up,” referencing a woman who set up a tape recorder before going to bed and found that phrase repeatedly uttered the next morning on the resulting tape, and I’d run off to tell mom. In hindsight, I guess it wasn’t that hard to scare me.
My wife and I watched Signs for our first date when we were 17 years old. I wanted to watch it because I figured that it would be the kind of aliens I liked to see (Like in District 9, or Prometheus), and also because I figured it would scare her and she’d want to cuddle or something. What a fool—I slept with the lights on for a month. This is despite how silly they ended up looking and how improbable the twist was. And even now, at 31, I see movies like Area 51, The Fourth Kind, and Extraterrestrial popping up on Netflix, and I actively avoid them because I don’t want to be a 31-year-old parent sleeping with the lights on in bed with my wife.
The point is that I’ve thought a lot about aliens, so while I technically ignored the age-old advice about writing what you know, I definitely wrote about what I thought about many times at night when I was a kid… and, you know, as an adult sometimes too.
Believe it or not, though, despite the fact that they creep me out, I have to admit I always felt unsatisfied with most of the abduction tales I’ve heard. They were usually too fuzzy—no one could remember exactly what happened, or sometimes their experiences would play out like an acid-fueled drug trip. So my goal in writing The Waypoint was to make Gil as lucid as possible throughout his experience, and I think I did a pretty good job of that. No telepathy (well, almost), no mystical wisdom, certainly no probing, and no vague conspiracies—these things have all entertained me at one point or another, of course, but they’re simply not the sort of thing that kept me up at night as a child (right, and as an adult).
And speaking of being kept up at night, another personal benefit of writing this book is that aliens aren’t as creepy as they used to be. Indeed, giving them names, mundane chores, and comparably average intelligence has demystified these otherwise very mystical childhood monsters. Of course, writing The Waypoint has also made it clear that virtually no one else finds these things scary. Would you believe I at one point thought I was writing a horror story? I always asked readers if the book scared them at all, and they always had to stifle a laugh. They assured me the book had moments that were gross, humorous, creepy, or thrilling, but that it was completely devoid of any horror. I suppose I can relate, though—vampires creep out my wife, which I’ve always found silly.
Writing this book was also a great learning experience on how to write. For one thing, I learned that this book has entirely too many adverbs. Like, however many adverbs one should limit themselves to in a book of this length, I have about four times that amount. Even in this short block of text, I have more adverbs than anyone should. Oops. If I manage to write another book, I think I’ll be much more mindful of how many adverbs I’m using.
I also want to involve more characters in future stories. In the end, The Waypoint was a story about Gil and Korben. And I only had to make one of those characters talk. I want to have bigger conversations between more than two people, and I want some of them to be women—you may have noticed there was only one line in this book spoken by a female (a reporter), and it wasn’t even an important line. So that’s a goal.
My favorite parts of the book are when Gil was alone and interacting with stuff on the ship. It played out like a point-and-click adventure game, with him goofing around with things and seeing what would happen. Chapter Six was the best example of this. He had a couple hours to himself to go from room to room and be nosey. There was also a bit more of this later on, when he chucked a cube of meat at the spinning disc, and again when he found the birthing room.
Anyway, I sincerely hope you enjoyed this little tale I cooked up. Thank you for reading!