Sunday, November 04, 2007

blah blah blah blah blah

Keep it light. Breezy. The breeze off the bay. Elmore Leonard. A shotgun through a window. The flash of muzzle powder? Sulfur stink in the air. The body thuds. A pair of plastic framed glasses skitters across the wooden floor. A figure in black dashes off to an awaiting two-door late model sedan. The wheels squeal and kick up dust as it drives away. No one got a license number. No one saw anything at all. There were no witnesses.

A man sits dead by the riverside, a bullet hole through the temple. He was a working class man who lived in a working class neighborhood of tract homes. No weapon was ever recovered. No tracks. .38 caliber bullet. At his visitation the funeral home had done a good job, but the lines of his forehead abruptly faded in the center of his brow, giving his death face a somewhat whimsical expression, as if he faced death cool and aloof. Which he probably did because he was fishing, and it was a beautiful fall day, and his killer left no footprints. If some ghosts are ghosts because death happened so suddenly and they do not realize it, this guy would be a good candidate.

Of course, I’m revisiting a childhood trauma. One of my best friends from childhood, age 9, to be exact, when we were good friends his father was murdered in that fashion. And his murder remains unsolved to this day.

The river is an uncaring cataract. It carries bodies and evidence and logs and junk indiscriminately. Unseen, below, boulders, pebbles, sand, eartha moves steadily, glacially, toward the sea.

Such dark, murky, underwater thoughts on a sunny Sunday morning… Thinking novel thoughts, even though whatever fiction I seem to start gets stalled somewhere… due to… honestly.?.. Short attention span. Too critical. Gotta get over that. Keep it light. Breezy. Like a 60s skinny tie loafer coolness hipster.

Maybe a road trip movie, where our protagonist meets five interesting characters on the path to both a material goal and a spiritual redemption. The hero’s tale. But light. Breezy. Motive for travel. The funeral of a friend? Too unbelievable. A planned hiatus. The bum at 50?
Or… for the sake of the national novel writing month… 50,000 words. Five characters. A small town. Interweave five distinct characters in a landscape. The landscape itself is a character. A backdrop and a mood setter. Thought about doing a highly fictionalized version of Antigo, the sports editor/reporter for a daily newspaper in a small town in northern Wisconsin town. It will be easier, considering the time constraint, to cull loosely from my own life. Plus, I remember the distinctive details of that time and place.

I honestly don’t know how I’m going to find the time, in light of a slew of other things I am doing, to write a 50,000 word novel this month. But I like the challenge, and am going to take it up… starting now… No, wait, I have to outline first. The procrastinator’s creed. Well… let’s come up with a basic plot. Or do the characters first? The fear of failure. Of seeming stupid at it. This is why I don’t write fiction. I don’t feel qualified. I am dissatisfied so much with my past efforts, though I have written a few reasonably good short stories. What will carry me past writer’s block is not caring about quality. I can always fix things on the second draft. It’s like I tell my students, “just get it out there. Don’t worry about it just keep the pen moving. And so it is this morning. But this is just for the sake of 1,000 words. The end goal limits the creativity. Cuts it off midstream.

Not going to worry about that today. Sunday. My weekend with Jonny. May go outside to another forest preserve. Yesterday went to Pratt’s Woods in DuPage County. IT is just one of many forest preserves along the Kress Creek and DuPage River corridors. I am going to explore this area on foot and eventually canoe the river. My canoe season is officially over. Next weekend I take the canoe up to my parent’s place for storage, remove the rack from the truck, and put the bed liner back in. Of course, this week I have to remember (yeah, right) to epoxy seal the holes in the bed liner. And dat dere’s the crappy t’ing ‘bout bed liners; they can promote rust if water gets trapped in the bed by the liner.

See? I went from writing about my small town idyll / tale of discovery novel to mulling over the mundane details in my life. But, see, this procrastination. I could put it in the novel. Our hero who I haven’t given a name yet. Just call him Protagonist 1/ character 1/ the young man, fresh out of college, without a face, but a vague history that resembles, in certain ancillary details, my own life at the time that I lived in Antigo With some key differences. He arrives in Antigo still single. Because his navigation fo the single life, or lack thereof, in this small town, will provide some of the fun, breezy, comedic elements of the overall story. Now I’m thinking… The gears are turning. I want to have this still unnamed hero / protagonist / human being / find love and learn to compromise his career goals for the sake of that love. Yeah, that could the be the climax. He’s offered a higher-paying position at a larger mid-market daily, Green Bay, and that ends the novel as our hero leaves, and takes his love with him…. See? Light. Breezy. Soap opera. A bit of the ol’ Garrison Keilllor with eccentric oddball characters milling on the fringe, based, of course, on actual oddball characters I’ve met there and in Antigo over the years.

One of the other main characters will be an oddball. The town eccentric. The guy who lives out of his truck. The guy who wrote the Jesus Christ mind control machine manifesto. [there really was a self-published book by some local oddball in the records of the newspaper office]. There has to be an antagonist. A scandal. A bugaboo or two to keep things exciting. I like making the sheriff the bad guy. Another bad guy would be the city attorney guy, a nerdy, professional, non-small town mastermind kind of guy. Not like our main character, who is aloof and a little put off by living in the north woods. I admit there will be a bit of a Northern Exposure vibe to this, though not as Jungian, and possessing none of the remoteness that is Alaska. But, like Northern Exposure, the politics and quirkiness of small town life will be exploited to maximum effect.


More soon… This is actually my thousand word cutoff, but closer to word 1,150.…


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