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Five guys walk into a bar… (Writing journal, October 18, 2012)

I had a lot of non-writing activities planned for today, but haven’t really been feeling up to them. But that’s OK, because today feels more like a writing day anyway. And by the way, writing days aren’t just writing, they also can include reading and just plain old thinking. I’ve been reading more of Is Life Like This? and it’s giving me lots to think about because I’m into the chapters on the real meat of novel construction. Specifically, characters and plot. I feel like I’m starting to get a handle on my main character for “Unanimous Consent” but a few big questions remain about him and the plot. The biggest is that I don’t yet know what his main motivation is. What is the big challenge he faces? The obvious answer is that he wants to have true freedom, but that doesn’t seem visceral enough. The quest for freedom is certainly a driving factor for him, but what is he really trying to get past? Did he have a rough childhood? Did he lose someone important to him? Maybe his wife or close girlfriend? I’m pretty sure he loses his cherished dog as a climax in the story, but that’s just the culmination of his earlier life journey. What is his real struggle, his true demons? I guess it’s time for a shower…

[Later...]

Wow, as usual, a very productive shower session! So much this time I have to rush to write it all down before I forget. I probably should have used my shower notepad.

First, I think it’s going to work best if I start writing in the middle of the plot and then work both ways from there—forward and back. The middle being that mental image where the main character stands admiring his newly-purchased territory for the first time. Then, it’s a matter of answering “How did he get here?” and “What does he do next?”

I guess I need to figure out this guy’s name, at least tentatively. It’s such a big decision, though, because of how a name can shape a character.

But next my mind jumped to wondering about how he got all the money to buy this land. He’s a smart guy. He invented something. Maybe something on the Internet–something Facebook or Google or Apple or Microsoft bought and made him rich. Not filthy rich, necessarily, but rich enough. I thought of one of my own favorite ideas—the “mobile cheesesteak factory”—a food delivery service where they make the food in the truck on the way to your house or office. Maybe that’s his thing! Or one of them. It turns out big and eventually Domino’s Pizza buys him out because it gives them his high-tech routing software, his state-of-the-art food prep, and lets them expand to a whole new set of foods.

And that brought back visions of me talking about that idea with my old office buddies. Maybe that works for my character, too–he starts out at a typical office job–probably computer-related, and he’s got two or three office buddies he usually goes to lunch with. During lunch they argue politics and solve the world’s problems (just like we did). Eventually, they decide to start their own business–maybe it’s the Mobile Cheesesteak Factory or maybe not.

Here’s where a piece of dialog popped into my head. I see the founder—I’ll call him Brian for this exercise—and his buddies sitting around having drinks in their favorite hangout, a relatively quiet corner in a sports bar that shows news instead of sports on the TVs. They’re laughing and talking about the Mobile Cheesesteak Factory idea:

Ah, the fun of being a writer, to have these conversations in your head. And I even managed to get that one on paper. I had another one come to me last night as I was trying to sleep. I had my iPhone on the nightstand, so I typed it in so I’d remember it. Brian (still temporarily calling the main character that for now) and one of his fellow pioneers—let’s call him Keith—are sitting around a campfire on the new land (no houses have been built yet). They’re talking about what kind of government to form for the territory:

And that, of course, is where the working title comes from.

I take it as a very encouraging sign that I’m starting to see and hear these dialogs.

I like the idea that the main character has these good friends he met at a previous job and that they later go into business together. Some of them will go along with him to the new land, some will stay behind. But this should make things easier because I can draw on my own similar experiences. Now I need to figure out if he’s single or married or whatever. So far, he seems like a bachelor, but somewhere he probably needs to get seriously involved with someone to make him more likable and to help women identify with the story.

I’ve decided that “Unanimous Consent” is the story I’m going to do for NaNoWriMo. I don’t have the same level of enthusiasm for any of the other ideas as I do for this one, at least at this point. I’ll leave the ideas corkboard as is, for backup, but I’m going to focus all my efforts on getting this idea ready for writing in November.

 

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