Sunday, April 04, 2021

A man of few words

Work in Progress

I have few words and certainly no images to share. I’ve discovered that extruding a garden variety 800-word blog is the stepchild to writing an 80,000-word page turner. My friend and now life coach, thank you John Ellsworth, has covered me up with concrete processes for constructing a novel, the mechanics of said pursuit. Without these planning and plotting tools a fella will flail away, take way the hell too long to produce even one book, and all the flailing will come to naught. According to a book that John recommended and which I read in a single sitting I am a “pantser” meaning that I write by the seat of my pants while I need to be a “plotter” which should be self-explanatory. Hell, if I wanted to be a bricklayer, I’d have bought a trowel. And all I have is this stupid computer.

The truth is that the strictures of book construction make sense to me even If I don’t fully grasp them yet. In the early going I’m still pantsing and the plotting or planning parts languish in the nether regions of my brain. Right now, I’m mired in the character development phase as I flesh out the protagonists of the novel of which there appear to be two. I didn’t know there would two such characters until I’d written the first 500 words, my daily goal for now according to John. “That should be easy for you” John suggests. Easy for you to say, Mr. 2,000 words a day. 

In the aforementioned book the author speaks about getting a call from her publisher. Her publisher tells her that she wants to publish her next book in the fall and needs the manuscript in three weeks.  The publisher asks if she can do that. Is she sure? Our author responds, and I paraphrase liberally, “Sure. I do it all the time.” And she proceeds to deliver a 90,000-word novel in three weeks. The secret is that our author had already outlined the entire book and after re-acquainting herself with the outline she knew she had a good one. She says that she can do such an outline in a few hours. I am blown away and challenged to give it a go.

When I began writing, the presumptive hero of the novel was known to me. Then my keyboard named him. Those little squares have minds of their own. I knew what the character did for a living. I chose a profession which would put him in situations where he would stumble into trouble. And I knew his, he is a dude, personal demons before the first keystroke. But when I began writing the character became real to me. The second protagonist grew from knowing what makes the primary character tick and where their lives could intersect. If not on a collision course they are placed on the same turf at the same time and sparks fly, both good and bad. Beyond character one’s flaws, fierce antagonists by any measure, I have yet to discover his archenemy. If I’m conceiving a series of books headlined by our hero, the malevolent super genius villain will emerge from the situations I’ll create. That’s the plan, Stan.

And for those of you who scoff, “You mean to tell me that you’re thinking about a series of books when you can’t even write one?” Uh, definitely maybe. 

And now for some construction work.


Maxwell Edward James struggled down the steps of his rent-controlled apartment on 11th Avenue. He’d lived in the below grade apartment in Hell’s Kitchen since he returned from the first Gulf War. The $1,400 a month he’d been paying since 1991 made the trim two bedroom a luxury that he could afford. He’d be paying $5,000 if he rented the place today. Freelancers like Max live from assignment to assignment. He accepted the uncertainty that came with his freedom to come and go as he pleased. Freedom was job one. $5,000 was not only be out of reach but he had to have a second bedroom for writing and editing. He was a one-man production team that sold finished television news stories in 9 minute segments. Video, stills, narrated, edited and ready to broadcast from the field via Max's second bedroom.

At $1,400 he couldn’t even live in Queens or Hoboken.  Hell, he couldn't live in Newark, heaven help him. And he didn’t want any part of it anyway. To Max Manhattan was the center of the known universe, and Hell’s Kitchen had been his neighborhood for going on 30 years. He knew the rhythms of the place. He He knew every street, alley, gin mill and bodega from 42nd Street to Central Park and West Side Highway to Times Square.  

Everybody in the neighborhood knew him. They stood by him though he was a pugnacious sort when he had a load on. They dismissed the occasional dust-up because he was one of their own. Even the beat cops looked the other way. And the other guy started it didn't he?

According to his building super, Javier, “Max is a stand-up dude. He paid his dues in Iraq, didn’t he? Cut him some fucking slack.”


Blacks Crossing said...

Well, well and then some, Esteban! It has begun, and a solid beginning at that. Congratulations. Spring has sprung and so has Max, along with his challenges. If he, like you, are up for a challenge, your first novel of a series is a perfect fit. All of your dedicated followers will surely be looking forward to your words, and John Ellis' influence and mentoring along the way. Cool!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff, great start. YOur grasp of telling stories and fleshing them out with details and motives is already starting to pay off. Very proud of you, old friend.

John Ellsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Ellsworth said...

I am posted as anonymous just above. Maybe your blog knows something I don't.

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