circus story (outline)

Thursday, January 8, 2004

This story has gone from cooky to depressing. I took an old story idea and mushed it together with the first part I wrote the other day to form the following outline. It's not exactly a happy story, but I think it will be interesting to explore the characters and their difficulties.

The story originates from an article I read (I think it was a NY Times Magazine article, but I'm not sure) about a woman with brain cancer. Her fiance abandoned her after her mental health deteriorated. It was very sad. But I also thought the man's decision was interesting. I'm not saying it was the right one, but just the dilemma itself really made me think. That's the impetus behind this story. I still need to draw up a rough outline of the chapters and get to work.

Time to synopsize the circus story:

The story will not be told chronologically. It will follow the broken Kevin as he tries to understand his unexpected success as an artist after his abandonment of Annie. The story of his engagement and her death will be told as memories/flashbacks.

When Kevin met Annie in 1998, he was an artist living meagerly in New York City and searching for his artistic voice. He grew up in an upper-middle class family in Brooklyn. His family groomed him to be a doctor like his father, but after attending Berkley, he decided to pursue art against his parents’ wishes. While they continued to support him emotionally, they did not provide financial support, thinking they’d scare him into taking a real job. Before he met Annie, he had little focus, living from job to job and sleeping in friends and girlfriends’ apartments.

Annie, a successful corporate lawyer, is the opposite of Kevin. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York and worked her way through school. When he met her, she is working extremely hard for a prestigious law firm. Her parents, especially her father, never encouraged her to succeed in life, having an antiquated understanding of a woman’s role. They thought she should have stayed home and married a local man.

Kevin met Annie at a poetry reading. Both were 30. After a tumultuous six-month relationship, Kevin and Annie become engaged because of Kevin’s (half-joking) anxiety about the apocalyptic destruction the new millennium will bring. He presents her with a handmade engagement ring. The parents…not sure what the parents think. (An underlying theme for both Kevin and Annie and their relationship with their parents is that neither of the parents accepted their child’s professional choice.)

In April after their engagement, Kevin convinces Annie, who has an intense fear of doctors, to see one after she complains of intense headaches. She is diagnosed with an inoperable form of brain cancer and given six months to live. Annie asks Kevin to stay with her. Kevin, who led a sheltered life and never had to deal with adversary or difficulty, abandons Annie without saying goodbye. He leaves New York and goes to live with a former lover. Annie, her mental condition deteriorating, dies five months later. Her family is there to support her. After her death, Annie’s mother confronts Kevin.

The main story (at least the “present” story) is about Kevin coming to terms with his artistic success. He knows (although he doesn’t admit) that part of the reason for his success is Annie. She introduced him to feelings and her sickness made him feel something he had never felt before. Those feelings are what now inspire his art. Annie never forgave Kevin for abandoning her, and her mother emphasizes this when she confronts him.

Kevin, who was always a little out of touch with reality, is unable to accept his success. He finds an escape in a fantasy world that his mind constructs, and finds himself in that world increasingly. There is a resolution at the end of the story. I’m not sure if he commits suicide (I’m leaning against that now), finds peace (unlikely), escapes completely into his fantasy world, or something else. We’ll see where the story takes me.