I’ve written something like this before, I’ll admit, and it had virtually the same title, and I’m going to use it as a guide here, but since I wrote it out, a sort of outline on dead-ended plots, I’ve come up with some new ideas, and these are less tried and killed, but rather more insubstantial and uncertain, like a pitcher who does well in college, but has yet to show any big league talent.
When the last Harry Potter book came out, Rowling read the first two chapters at a sort of opening party for the book…I think it was the first two chapters. My father said that he’d rather she just sort of said, “Okay, here’s how the story goes…” and spewed on about it for a while, which I thought was a preposterous idea then and still think of as a preposterous idea now, but only because of situation. This was a book that was in a series, we knew the theme of it already, the style was nothing new. Now if it was a book she hadn’t finished writing yet or one that was just getting ready to be published, but was a stand alone kind of thing, then it would make more sense.
Not that what I’m doing here makes any sort sense.
“A papier-mâché Mephistopheles”
This is the novel that I’m writing in my head right now. It’s a female narrator and I’m looking at unlikely sources for ideas on how I can approach the concept of male writer writing in female voice—Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone, which has just a brilliant title; so far the first book of Lee Goldberg’s Monk series, original novels based on the characters of the USA show that’s now entering its last season, oddly enough, this book, Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse, has been since adapted into an episode of the show, presenting the sort of continuity issues that I find quite interesting; The Spy Who Loved Me, a book I haven’t gotten yet, Fleming’s only first person Bond novel. The plot of the story concerns a mid-2020s school reunion that reintroduces our heroine with the stock character “one who got away,” which I’ve been developing in my mind as some sort of self-pitying semi-successful novelist, autobiographical, only a better man than I am in virtually all ways. The first part of the story I see as the standard romantic comedy, with our narrator watching the now fifteen to twenty year old films The Holiday and Music and Lyrics among others, actually imagining herself attempting to stop her love from getting married, sort of a smart chick flick, as our narrator, her name being Samantha McGee, I believe (the writer named maybe something along the lines of Brad…something, I don’t know…maybe even three names), evaluating her life as it goes through all the little flutters and flights of such films. Then, after this, I’d liked to move onto a new genre, a sort of novel of ideas, about the two of them teaching each other their contrasting views of the world, learning new things, changing their minds. The backdrop of the last section is the presidential election of 2028, whose leading candidates present our couple with a dilemma, since Sam’s family is related by blood, however murkily, to one candidate, who bares their last name, but she is considering voting the other way. An idea I have, for her mother to be coming out of prison in the first section, for gauging how their relationship is changing, is also evaluated here. And then with a final concluding story that is vastly formless in my mind, but hopefully brings us into a new genre again, something, maybe ten to fifteen years later, and—an idea that occurs to me as I type—that could be built our protagonists looking forward, observing, and thinking about the effect of some future event along the lines of ‘69’s moon landing. Think of it as skiffy written with the style of yesteryear, our characters are older, and think differently, perhaps some juxtaposing sentences thrown in, like the carbon copies that Easton Ellis does in Less Than Zero and American Psycho.
“A Working Class Hero”
An epistolary novel between old friends who have grown out of touch; one is running for president, the other is only trying to make ends meet. A sort of rolling narrative might form, but I’d like to keep it in letters…I don’t think I’ll write this book until after I’ve read Dracula and The Gum Thief, and hopefully I’ll get more ideas about it from there. Eventually, the book would expand, and we’d get more letters written by different people to characters we already know, probably, that’s the idea anyway, when approaching an entire book as fragmentary as one made of letters, I think you can fall to breaking style quite quickly. The last story/letter/whatever would probably end on someone saying they were listening to the John Lennon song the other day and then slowly, mid sentence, our book ends. Maybe it starts out the same way, just half of a letter fragment, to we don’t know, from who knows where. And maybe I’d incorporate little articles from Paul Kuberg, my little fictional journalist into this one. Also, now that I think about it, in “paper-thin” the short hand I’d give to the book listed above (the one for this one would be “hero” or “working” probably depending on what I’m talking about exactly), we’d have a bit of this too, since our narrator would read from the books of the writer, Brad Something. I don’t know how well I could write an entire epistolary novel, though, this seems like something that could truly leak through my hands quickly and surely.
This one is the most haphazard. I have the title, I have the immediate idea and then it goes haywire. The narrator might be a writer. He’s disconnected from his father, perhaps knows that his father had an affair, but never told his mother, perhaps not. Mother and wife both die in a car crash. What I want to stir up with the title is the same sense of “ick” that I got from first reading about Bag of Bones, and it being about a writer and his dead wife. Now, in King’s book, the bag of bones has nothing to do with his wife, is actually continuously referenced as all even the best characters can be. In mine, roadkill is meant to mean, sickeningly, the narrators lost wife and mother, and perhaps he would characterize their bodies as that in the book at some point. I want to write a book where our narrator begins to become unreliable, his writing goes crazy, and perhaps he becomes haunted by ghosts of his family that the narrative leaves to you to decide if they are real or not. And that’s probably all I’m willing to write about this one in the stone of the internet at the moment.
“All these novels unwritten…”
A placeholder title—This would be a book about a writer named Mike (I’ve started a few of the stories and figured that much out), somewhat my form of Mike Noonan, the main character of Bag of Bones, more so just a name I’ve picked, since I consider myself particularly bad at coming up with character names. The novel would actually be more of a short story collection with perhaps some framing involved, but I’m not too sure on that part. What it would consist of are these little vignettes that vary in style and more so in genre, since I do want to make it all in somewhat the same voice. These would be purposely in haphazard chronological order, and perhaps the full extent of an idea of come up with called “hiding a novel,” which I’m sure is not entirely new and created by me, is probably not even coined this for the first time by me, but is an interest of mine lately. The idea would be that the novel—defined somewhat as a singular work of length that is sometimes broken up into chapters and the like, but is still over all unified by more than just a common characters or setting—calling anything that doesn’t fit this as something akin to the concept album of books, rather than the rock opera, which would be the novel. The lead story to this would be called “The Ghost Story,” and although the rest would probably not have such vague, weak names, they probably all would start in the word “The,” linking them, as these are the specific work in this book, that represents the story with that title. “The Ghost Story” itself, which I’ve started, has a bit of a frame around a campfire and the campers look to Mike for a story, since he’s the novelist with the group. I think this would be a book like Bag of Bones or Bret Easton Ellis’s Lunar Park, not in comparison as to skill, obviously, but as to theme, since neither of those are truly about plot, but more about writing than anything else. My own pseudo-writing-memoir, if I had the talent to write it as such, which I might not. Another story which I’ve started would be “The Great Novel Race,” and it might be a closer to the collection or just one somewhere stuck in the middle, slightly closer to the back. This story would take a look at writing that mirrors Junot Diaz’s speaker, Yunior, in The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, since there would be some distance between Mike and his subjects who are involved in, obviously, a race to finish writing novels. I would love to be able to capture the sort of commentary on writing that Chabon gets in Wonder Boys here. And then there would probably be at least half a dozen other stories there, each perhaps averaging thirty pages, with maybe thirty pages of frame spliced in.
“A Light in the Dark”
This would be a third person story, one I’ve written once, when I was in fifth grade, but one that derived into an alien invasion story. This, to me, is still a good title for it. Story about Jack Kraloni who’s a detective suffering black-outs and a series of killings going on, and Jack starts to wonder if someone isn’t doing them in his body while he’s decommissioned. Obviously written better than that was. Guest stars would be basically every character I’ve ever written with the thought of them being in more than one story.
And I call this “All these novels unwritten…” with a touch of my general pessimism, since I’ve never written a satisfactory novel, these will probably be forever never written.
8:04PM Wed 8/12/09