Old Anniversaries and New Fiction

Today is the 14th anniversary of my first wedding. It’s one of those dates that I just can’t forget, try as I might. Amy, if you’re reading this, happy former anniversary. I’m sorry things worked out as they did, but I’m glad we get along pretty well now, for Keith’s sake.

Tomorrow is the Tem writing group, in which I am supposed to accompany Melanie on guitar while we sing “Ode to Billie Joe.” I’m ready, I think. It’s a pretty easy song to play, but I have to wonder if the surviving recordings are at a different pitch then they were actually mastered. The TAB and chord files that I have found on the ‘Net indicate that the song should be played in F, but it sure sounds like D to me. I actually like playing it best in E, because I can get a funky little half-step slide in there to imply the song’s bass line.

I’ve mentioned that the homework for that session is to write something out of our comfort zone, but also (if we wish) follow the guidelines of including a tavern or bar. I sat down at the keyboard, knowing only that I was going to attempt either a romance or a horror story, and something calling itself “Chesterfield Gray” came out. By the end of the first 200 words, I had three characters interacting obliquely in a 1940’s era waterfront bar. It was a great start, but then stopped cold after about 550 words. I found I had questions to answer before continuing.

When the female character started directly addressing one of the male characters, he surprised me, because he is pretty much a jerk. Why is he like that? How is she going to react? Could anything develop between them after him being such an ass? Will she take his put-off manner as a challenge, or forget about him? How will the third character fit into all of this?

I don’t often outline exactly where I want a story to go when I start writing it. I usually have some vague idea of how I want it to end and a few events that I want to happen along the way. But sometimes the characters don’t want to go there. This story is a case where the characters themselves are directing the story, much as a well-run role-playing campaign should unfold. The intriguing thing to me is that I am learning about the characters as they are coming out, and I’m wondering what’s going to happen to them, as if I weren’t in control of their destinies. I suspect that this will make the piece strongly character driven, but it may be short on plot. I may have to shoehorn some of my own events in there to make it palatable.

I bought a ticket to go see Johnny A at the Gothic next Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to seeing him perform, and hopefully I will be able to get a fairly close seat.

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