June 21, 2010

SSFD ~ Week 3

So it’s the third week of the Summer of Shitty First Drafts (SSFD). Once again, I didn’t complete a full first draft, though I suppose I have a bit of an excuse as I drove eight hours on Wednesday, had a family reunion in Omaha on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and then drove eight hours back on Sunday. Well, my husband drove, and I entertained the twins. Excuses, excuses.

All this lack of closure is driving me crazy!

I wrote my story longhand this week because I knew I would be on the road and not taking my computer and I hoped to be able to work on it. I wasn’t, but I still was able to crank out seven and a half pages of longhand first draft the two days before I left.

This week’s story doesn’t yet have a title, which is unusual for me. Usually I start out with something for a title, even if I change it. It’s a series of emails between a ten-year-old boy Eric and his father. Eric’s mother died when he was just a baby, and his father is a hydropower engineer who is working in Chile. Eric lives in Los Angeles and is taken care of by a Hispanic woman named Rosie. It’s a story about Eric trying to get his father to come home and his father avoiding the subject and him. The first line is “Dear Dad, Rosie said I have to go to bed on time, but I said no because Batman goes to 9:30 and you said I get to stay up till Batman is done.”

What prompted that story was that horrible incident I talked about in last week’s SSFD post.

Did you know that Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows, and his wife Elspeth basically abandoned their son Alistair or “Mouse,” who had health problems, to the servants? In letters, Alistair would beg his father to come home, and his father would avoid it by writing him the story of The Wind in the Willows. Ironic that the book has become such a beloved children’s story. Mr. Toad is actually supposed to be a representation of Alistair. Alistair ended up committing suicide while an undergraduate at Oxford by laying on a train track and being decapitated.

I couldn’t get it out of my mind. That poor little boy writing letters to his father and begging him to come home, and then the father avoiding by writing this children’s story. The loneliness and abandonment of it all. And then the horrible death.

The story came very quickly ~ as much of it as I wrote. No hesitation whatsoever. It developed in my brain as I wrote. Instead of the father avoiding by telling a children’s story, I’m having him avoid by telling science facts and about Chile. Science is what he and his son have in common. My plan is to have the boy become more and more frightened as the story goes on because of people in the house and then incorporate Morse code (SOS) in some way with then ending, which will be an off-scene robbery. And then the father is going to email the son and get nothing back. But we’ll see how it turns out.

As a side note, in addition to writing drafts of these stories, I’m also going back and revising my first novel manuscript. Due to developments on the agent front, I think it’s time. It’s been really interesting to go back and read it. I took it as far as I could at the time, and now that I’m going back and reading it, I can see some parts really need deep work and others are pretty okay. What it needs is depth and richness and more place. I need to develop it more, unify it more. Not plot but all the meta stuff ~ metaphor, place, details, description. I’m a little intimidated at the moment, but once I get into it, it’ll be fine.

What I’m Reading Today: More wonderful Scribner’s Anthology.

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