Saturday, September 17, 2011

Brainstorming

I don't remember if I told you this or not (I started to write a post about it, fairly sure that I never finished), but I'm taking one of Lani's writing classes, Making Magic.  Last week we worked on soundtracks, this week we're doing collages.  I'm not visually artistic, so I'm struggling a bit. (Well, except for knitting, but that's more about following a pattern and mastering the mechanics.  You're on your own with collage.)

I'm supposed to be picking placeholders-- pictures of people, often actors, who represent the characters.  Sometimes it's the look, sometimes it's about the attitude or personality.  Whatever you need to help you make that person real in your head, until they take over and become their own person.  (People who've done much in the way of fiction writing will know what I mean.)

One of my characters, Ethan, is coming in pretty strong for me right now.  This is his story, told from his point of view.  He had this great boyfriend who dumped him suddenly right before Christmas, and he can't get over it.  He's bitter.  He doesn't understand why.  And now Christmas is coming around again, and so is the ex.  My big problem with Ethan is that I can't settle on what he looks like.  He's kind of an amorphous blob at the moment.  He shifts every time I look too close.  I can feel what he's feeling and know what he's thinking, but he won't let me see his face.

I have an image for the ex.  He's a pilot, I think.  I don't know what his name is yet.  So far he's been Dave, Dan, and Brad.  None of them fit.  So I'm just going to keep playing the "what name pops into my mind first" game periodically, and see what else comes up.  My biggest problem with Dave/Dan/Brad is that I don't know what is motivating him.  He basically walked out on Ethan, completely gone, out of his life, a couple days before Christmas.  Why?  What made him do that?  As far as Ethan is concerned, it was a douchey thing to do.  I know Dave/Dan/Brad had a reason for behaving that way.  It's got to be realistic, understandable, and redeemable.  Because I want these two guys together again.  But I don't know what the reason is.

What could make someone walk out on a relationship so suddenly?  What would make them change their mind a year later?  In my mind it feels like commitment phobia.  But does anyone want a hero who walks away utterly, no contact at all, and then appears a year later and says he wants you back?  How do you justify it?  How do you forgive it?

I did have one big revelation today.  It has to do with the structure of the story.  The first part is unquestionably Ethan's.  He's a teacher, so the story starts off at the beginning of the school year.  As the school year progresses, he finds himself rehashing the relationship.  Remembering the good times, re-examining those moments that might have been warning signs of what was to come.  Because he was really hit out of the blue when Dave/Dan/Brad walked away.  As we get closer to Christmas and the one year anniversary of the break up, Ethan gets madder.  The story ends with Dave/Dan/Brad knocking on the door a year after he left.  (You can play with stuff like this in m/m.  There's a lot more flexibility.  But it would never fly in mainstream romance.)

The second part of the story picks up from there.  It's all told from Dave/Dan/Brad's point of view.  (I really need to get a name for this guy.)  It will also cover two parallel time lines, his build up to walking out a year ago and his present struggle to get Ethan to take him back, with a little dash of how much he missed him after walking out.

So for the immediate future, I'm not too bad.  Ethan's story is first, and while I can't see him very well, I can feel him.  My biggest concern is that without knowing for sure what's going on with the Other Guy (I just can't type that list of names again-- it's getting depressing), I can't layer it in at all.  But then, Ethan is also clueless about what happened, so maybe it's not too bad.  More a question of whether or not I want to clue the reader in before Ethan figures everything out.  (That balance between letting the reader feel smart for figuring it out without making the character look dumb for not figuring it out.)

So.  Thoughts?  Why do people just get up and walk out one day, and what changes inside to let them come back?

5 comments:

  1. Oooohh ... I am looking forward to the read!

    Can Brad have left because of some sort of moral blackmail form a family member. "Dad's got cancer so if you stay gay he'll die knowing you'll go to hell how could you do that to him thingy". Or panic because it was his first relationship and all of a sudden it was serious?

    Good luck!!

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  2. Oh, I like Fokker's idea of the emotional blackmail from a family member. Or it could have something to do with his own acceptance of being gay-- like it was just a game before, but once he gets into a serious relationship, he has to re-think the whole thing?? Might work, might be too much of a head game. Going with what I posted about today (and thus what's on my mind), could he have gotten really upset about some little thing-- like maybe Ethan forgot their anniversary-- and it takes him that long to figure out that the little things aren't as important as the big things. ("little" and "big" being relative, of course).

    I vote for Rob for the Dave/Dan/Brad character. No particular reason, it just popped into my head.

    p.s. my word verification is "odder" :-)

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  3. The guy's name has to be D.B. Like D.B. Cooper. (Daves are usually asshats, in my experience, and Dans are generally VERY nice, Brads aren't always real bright.)

    Great ideas about why D.B. stays away, and I was thinking along the same lines. Family drama.
    Maybe even how he's ashamed or embarrassed (in the end, unreasonably so)about some family situtaion, one that he doesn't want to drag Ethan down in to.

    I love this story idea. Get back to writing it!
    Julie

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  4. I am with them on the family drama. May I suggest (after you're thru with the class) that you read Fingersmith which is f/f romance and has some of the goddiggitydamnedest actions made redeemable (tricking your beloved and having her commited to an asylum anyone?)? It is like a writing magic trick that you end up loving both characters still. So basically what I'm saying is Dave/Brad/Dan's motivation doesn't really MATTER in the end because unless he left to go be a pedophile, it's redeemable.

    Also, the name thing? I have a tendency to use "Ben" as a place holder and then end up with three bens in the damn story.

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  5. I wasn't keen on the family drama thing at first, but now I've got an idea that I like. What's his name (still haven't settled on anything, although he's been Jack and Alex in the last 24 hours) takes off after a phone call from his mom. "Your dad's in jail again."

    Ethan has this warm, tight-knit family, he's ashamed of his train wreck of a family. The military was his road out as a teen, and now that he's made something of himself and has a good thing going with Ethan, he's afraid his family is going to drag them down, too. But they're his family, and he can't just let them drown. So he takes off.

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Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I appreciate it!