Do you remember when I said I’d have my story edited and finished by today? I lied. I lied terribly. I did spend many, many hours working on it over the weekend—although, to be completely honest, which is hard to do after admitting a lie, I didn’t spend all my time writing. I wasted much of my time watching the first season of Seinfeld, an early Hanukah gift from my mother. But my story did move forward, and I’m hoping to have it completed by this week. I don’t mind missing deadlines, as long as the reason behind it is not that I was too lazy to write. I just need more time to get at the characters and find the story.
I did write down plenty of notes about what I was thinking as I was editing, so I figured I’d post them here. It’s not a terribly interesting read, especially since much of it refers to a draft that you haven’t seen, but as I keep trying to post something every day, here’s that something.
Story Planning notes (it’s not meta-writing, I swear!):
Why are we nervous for Charlie? He seems capable of handling the situation on his own the way I describe him now. What’s the twist? There’s no build up, no purpose. I have the basics of the story down, but I need to change stuff so it’s an interesting story. It’s a bunch of badly tied together vignettes.
What’s going to happen at the end? Roger, dressed in his ridiculous ninja suit, attacks Charlie using his newly started karate training. The training has to go back in somehow.
I haven’t paid enough attention to understanding the characters. The narrator, in particular, I need to find him again. I have to remember that we see everything through his eyes, and what makes that interesting is his viewpoint and his comments. That’s the focus of the story: what does the narrator find interesting and why. He’s telling someone this story because he thinks it’s funny. I have to get back to that—I lose it after the beginning. Who is the narrator? He’s a tough guy from Brooklyn. Tough in what way? How is he different from Charlie? There needs to be more about him. I wrote in today’s draft about him hiding behind the bunk bed during the confrontation with the crossbow. That doesn’t make sense. If he’s a tough guy, then he jumps in after the shot, he doesn’t run away. How old is he when he’s telling the story? I originally wrote he was 14, and the story takes place when he was 10 or so. That should work if I stick to it.
Charlie—he’s either a skinny tough guy or a wimpy guy. Either way, he has a big, effective mouth. Is he awkward? He’s skinny and not good at sports, which translates into what? I started making him courageous today, but I’m moving away from that. There’s no story, like I spoke about before, if there’s no risk to him, and if he’s courageous and doesn’t care about his physical safety, than why would Roger, no matter what he does, bother him? He wouldn’t, which is why I have to change that…again.
There are three scenes and a few unrelated vignettes: (i) crossbow; (ii) gym confrontation; and (iii) flying toe stomp. I’m also not getting the feeling that this is a dangerous neighborhood. I’m not sure if I want the story to go there, but it is a possibility.
Getting back to Charlie, is he a wimpy scaredy-cat? Based on all my other main characters, I would say yes, which for this story is the right path to take. He has to be nervous about the fight, otherwise, why would he care (and therefore why would we care). The ninja suit I’m going to save until the last scene. I don’t want Roger to wear it until he jumps out of the bushes to attack Charlie.
Too much sugar from my mocha. My mind is spinning and I’m losing my focus. I decided against the caffeine, and it hasn’t affected my writing. I did it more because the caffeine yesterday made me feel terrible when I was walking back from the bucks. I felt my heart racing and my legs tired—it was a strange dichotomy.
A couple of deep breaths and I can get back to planning. There’s lots of distracting conversations and movement going on around me, but I’m going to resist writing it down. I want to focus on the story and trying to finish it today, which I’m seeing is less and less likely, with all these proposed changes.
Why does the narrator protect Charlie? Originally, their relationship resolved around drawing comic books, but I pulled away from that. I didn’t think it was an interesting subject—particularly because I knew little about it. They might just be friends, like school boys are friends, just because they sat next to each other in a class. They were friends when they were younger, but have grown apart since. What’s up with the gangster discussion? I have no idea where that came from, but it makes Charlie into a more dangerous character.
The narrator moved away from Brooklyn and is now living in Long Island, or some other suburb, and he wants to reconnect to his neighborhood. He’s the type when people ask him where he’s from, he’ll always say Brooklyn, even though he moved away when he was ten. That should come out.
After editing the first two pages with the above in mind, I came to the first major scene: the crossbow. I need to figure out what happens between Roger, Charlie, and the narrator. As written now, the narrator hides while Roger and Charlie play. I did that mostly just to get the narrator out of the way so Roger could shoot Charlie, without pissing off the narrator. But it makes the narrator seem scared, when I wanted Charlie to be nervous. I could have Roger just pulling out and showing the weapons to Charlie and the narrator—not playing ninja, as it’s now written, but just demonstrating them. Roger wouldn’t let them touch his weapons because he’s selfish (see his relationship with his parents). He pulls out the crossbow, loads it, and aims it in their general direction. This is where I can reveal some more aspects of Roger and Charlie’s characters. The action won’t be extreme (there won’t be lots of kicking and punching and stealing of sais like now), but it does make the narrator appear stronger.
What happens after Roger shoots Charlie with the crossbow? Do they run out of the house? Why don’t they punch and kick and beat up Roger? That’s probably what they would do. They beat the shit out of Roger. And they leave it at that until Roger begins badmouthing Charlie. Why doesn’t he badmouth the narrator? And why is Charlie scared if he just beat up Roger—wouldn’t he just beat him up again? So many fucking holes! Would the narrator feel bad about beating up Roger? At the end, they’d probably run out of the house avoiding Roger’s parents, as it ends now. If they do beat up Roger, then he has the impetus for taking karate lessons—besides his obvious love of the ninja. The problem with that is then the final fight would be between Roger, and Charlie and the narrator, not just Charlie. What happens if the narrator isn’t in the house with Roger and Charlie when the crossbow incident takes place? I’d have to introduce Eddie back into the story, and have him tell the story. So? No. I like the other details that would only come out if the narrator were present. Maybe the narrator steps out of the room—e.g., going to the bathroom—when the shot takes place. That way, the narrator bumps into Charlie as Charlie runs out of the house. Does Charlie beat up Roger? Either way.
I drove home, hoping that the drive would allow me to give it some more thought. Except for flying through a stop sign when I was deep in thought (luckily there was no one around me—and I’ve never, ever done that before), I didn’t come up with much. I decided on the easy route: just have Charlie get shot and then leave. Let me get back to that now.