Saturday, February 7, 2015

Straying South #2 - In Search of a Better Title

This started out as a short comment in the last post about being just a bit sick, but it really took on a life of its own...

In addition to the other things I have been up to, I managed to tweak my short play Straying South and add back in just a bit more info that will be useful down the road, either in the novel or in another short play with the same characters.  The final version is available at the tail end of this post. I now need to take this slightly expanded version and turn it back into a short story in order to submit it to The Star short story contest.  But that shouldn't take too long.

What's a lot more interesting to me is that I have let it simmer in the back of my mind and I think I have come up with the March contribution to Sing-for-Your Supper.  It will indeed be a continuation of Straying South.

At first, I was sort of thinking of a separate series of short plays where we see the backstage antics of Shelly and April (a bit like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) but decided that was far too meta-theatrical.  And it would only make sense if the novel was actually out and this play became bonus material.  (My intention, even though the novel will be a conventional third-person perspective novel, is for the action to follow Jonathan around and only cover those events where he is present.  So there won't be any omniscient viewpoint in this novel.  Anything that happens "offstage," Jonathan will only hear about second-hand.  At least that is the plan.  I can be a little more flexible in these short plays, as they aren't "canon.")  Obviously, that is getting way ahead of myself.

I might as well admit that I don't really want to write too much about the private lives of lesbians, simply because it probably wouldn't be believable, so it will nearly always be Jonathan soaking up a lot of information about their private lives but it will always be somewhat refracted by them interacting with him, even if in a space that feels like home to them, even if Jonathan wanders in from time to time. So instead I may just start off with a line or two where Shelly asks April if she ever feels like she is just a bystander in her own life waiting for "real life" to start, and April will say that while she used to feel that way, she never does now while she has all these children's eyes upon her.  That makes you the centre of your own private universe every day.  And then Jonathan enters the scene and things take off in whatever direction they go.

While it was a bit of a throw-away (in Straying South) for April to be a grade school teacher, probably 1st or 2nd grade, it actually will help set up Jonathan's teaching career in Newark if I ever wrap up the first novel and then write the sequel.  Talk about getting ahead of oneself!  However, it is encouraging to feel that the characters are starting to develop internal coherence.  I never really had a good angle on April, other than she was going to be the opposite of the real-life person (half of a lesbian couple) whom I knew back in the 90s.  Thus, she would be fairly surly and unpleasant to Jonathan.  I've decided I will walk that back a bit, mostly because it is difficult to maintain that tone.  On the other hand, it probably would work better in a stage environment where externally expressed conflict is practically a requirement.

So I can sort of see working on these moments where the three of them are interacting back home, and then these become interludes with the rest of the novel where Jonathan is out in Toronto in a series of increasingly bizarre jobs.  That is a fairly resilient and flexible structure I could use.  And who knows perhaps it will result in a decent stand-alone play,* even though the main goal is to use this to accumulate enough novel material to really kick it into that higher gear and finish.  I think I am at that point (ready to buckle down and finish).  Things have finally come together to the point where I can see it happening.  Would it have better to just have cranked this out 10 or 15 years ago?  No doubt, but then I would have given up something else that I really cared about at that time, most likely the dissertation.  And of course, if we hadn't moved every two or three years that would also have made it a lot more likely I would have had the free time to finish this up.  But I can't really regret too much.  I've made the most of the various situations I've found myself in (or forced myself into as the case may be).

As I indicated I really don't have a title yet, though maybe I'll just call it something like The Job Hunt.  This episode will be one where Jonathan has been fired from his first job and is shocked and looking for a bit of sympathy from Shelly.  April keeps trying to convince him to take up smuggling.  I think this is too early in the novel for Jonathan to get into that phone sex thing (and that perhaps does deserve to get staged -- I'll have to think about it).  I'm trying to remember what else there was.  Working for a somewhat kinky rich man as his personal assistant.  (That episode probably has to be rethought as there was just a bit too much gay panic involved.)  The phone sex thing.  Working at the ROM.  I definitely need one or two more odd jobs or the novel will be too short.  Let me go back through my notes and brain storm a bit more.  Whatever I come up with will be the job that Shelly pushes him into in this short piece.  Maybe something like working in a bookstore, though why that wouldn't work out (to set up the next chapter) is a mystery to me at present.  Clearly I have a bit more work to do, but some of the pieces are falling into place.

* Now things work pretty well as a triad in this play, but would I want some of the wackiness of the overall novel to spill over into the play?  The troubled archivist at the ROM -- probably not as she never comes to Jonathan's place.  The immigration officer?  Maybe, that would be a heck of an ending, though a lot of the set-up gets lot in not following him around to various bars or harassing him in the workplace(s).  But it might be worth trying to squeeze in that phone-sex scene where he actually works in an office setting all rigged up to receive such calls.  I'll just have to think about it some more.  Maybe it is better left to the imagination...

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