I was honored that Paul invited me into this. That is, until I had written my first draft. After perusing it a time or two I wasn’t too enthralled with my product at all. In fact, I was so worried I wrote a turd that I actually had fleeting thoughts of bowing out of the collection. Like I do with almost all my short work, I sent it to my English brother-from-another-mother Chris Leek and asked his opinion. He sent back some darn good notes, and I went to work.
What I wound up with was a story I was uniquely proud of. Most times I try to write an entire scene for the effect of the scene; for something that will carry into the next scene. But what I had here for Paul’s Exiles anthology was a story whose every element threaded outward and tied back into a single word. Alone.
The story itself began when Paul said the loose theme was “outsiders.” I opened the thesaurus and started finding all the closely related words, then I did something I don’t normally do and just plugged those words into Google Images. The associated pictures were varied but hugely inspiring. The word “alone” gave me the most.
I saw a sharp black and white photo of a single stone outcropping like the stump of a felled tree sticking out of a calm body of water. It was like somebody cut down an ancient oak and then flooded the lawn in which the stump it was situated. I used to be a sailor in the military, and the serene, vast calm of being out on the water came back to me with that photo. How you could be out there in the ocean and no matter how many other people you had with you, you were a million miles from anyone.
It sounded good to start writing about sitting on that rock.
A story has to do something, of course, and since I only had the lone man sitting on that rock, I figured he’d have to be the one doing it. I began to wonder about why and how he’d become an outsider. An exile. It all came back to the word alone. Being stranded on a rock in the middle of nowhere is pretty alone if you ask me. So the story was there. The story revolved on the why and how his butt got to its new stone seat.
I have no idea where my character’s name came from. I typed Plimpton—probably as a place holder until I came up with something cool like Jagger or Snake Eyes—and just never revisited it. And even as I went along, typing more of his world, the name just fit. Whatever that means, it just fit.
I avoided my character having an imaginary friend named Wilson. I gave him real company in the form of bloated bodies bobbing along in the water near enough to his dangling feet that they might brush his toes. I made him unlikable enough to where even the sun was leaving him because it didn’t like his company. A hateful man ruminating on how his life was ebbing away one second at a time, surrounded by endless waters and dead bodies leads to some noir-inspired naval gazing. And what if he wanted it? Even better, what if he thought he wanted it until he got it?
The title came dead last. Never A Vessel Large Enough was something I plucked from the text. I’m horrible at titles. Something cool and unique either just falls in my lap or I wind up with a single word-type thing, like Collection, Best and Cheated. And that one statement fit the whole mood of the story. It also had a mysterious feel to it, and who doesn’t enjoy that?
Paul, thank you for the opportunity to be in this and I hope the anthology touches the stars with its success.
Bio: Ryan Sayles is the author of Subtle Art of Brutality and That Escalated Quickly! He won Dead End Follies‘ 2013 award for best newly discovered talent. Subtle Art of Brutality was nominated for best crime novel at Dead End Follies and top Indie novel at The House of Crime & Mystery’s 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards. Ryan is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp and on the masthead at The Big Adios. He may be contacted at Vitriol And Barbies.wordpress.com.