The rising warmth

November 2016 came and went, bringing another Nanowrimo, and the birth of new stories from authors both budding and experienced. My well-wishes go to all. I also started a novel during the month, hoping to repeat the joyous experience of rushed writing that was November 2015, but it was not to be. After a few short days I crashed out; not so much a spectacularly flaming wreckage as a sullen halt in an overgrown ditch. It was a rather unglamorous failure, ambivalent in every way. The follow up to The Devil’s Playbook, which has a working title of Love’s Lost, went on indefinite hiatus.

My day-job is, sadly, not in writing. It is often hard to pin down exactly what my job actually is, and even my CEO has said that the best way to describe it is ‘stuff guy’. I am someone who has a loosely collected set of responsibilities that don’t fit into any of the usual control functions of a corporation. I do stuff that needs to be done, but stuff that no one else really wants to do — and not in a Michael Clayton kind of way either. My role involves far more emails and audits, and hopefully two less hit men. Over November and December of 2016 my career path also went the way of Love’s Lost, leaving me somewhat adrift. To take the nautical metaphor a little further, my sails were torn and what was left of the rigging was tangled beyond comprehension. I’m still gainfully employed, but the map shows no harbour in these seas.

Feeling depressed and demoralised, the past few months have left me working out what to do with my life. During this time I felt it best not to write that much, as although it is a passion of mine, it’s not something I want to do to escape my problems, it’s something I want to do to answer my problems. Which means I need to know what my problems actually are in the first place. The last few months have been a time to wallow and to think, while I watch Netflix, read books, and play games (board and computer). If the months of the year were prefaced by chapter cards, like an old silent movie or a Quentin Tarantino production, then January would have proudly declared itself as such.

“January: Introspection.”

Of course, I wasn’t quite done in January.

“February: Also introspection.”

And by the time March came about, well… still not done.

“March: The consideration that sooner or later introspection has to come to an end if you don’t want to irritate all of your friends.”

So here we are in April. I’m not quite done with my introspection/wallowing, but it really needs to be put as much behind me as possible. I actually found myself welling up, in sadness, in a damn Comedy Club the other day. That’s not normal, surely.

While part of my mind was engaged in consuming stories — written, shown or played — another part has been turning over the first halting passages of Love’s Lost, trying to work out where to take it. I was recently able to witter on about it to an obligingly patient friend for the better part of an hour. There’s definitely a story there, but it wasn’t ready to be written.

Those that have read The Devil’s Playbook will have noted the not too subtle social commentary. My view of world politics is that we have come to an unpleasant place with the outcome of 2016’s Brexit vote and the U.S elections. While you are free to disagree, and I am happy for you to do so, please understand that this is simply my outlook on the matter. I’m hoping to be proven wrong, but will let it lie for now. I’m pragmatic and will work with what I’ve got, I’m not in denial about the results. I was just on the other side of the fence to those that won those votes, and don’t like the outcome.

Being unhappy in myself, and being unhappy with the world around me, I felt that it was a bad time to really delve into Love’s Lost. I don’t want it to particularly reflect those two events, my opinion on them, or the complex social, economic and political backgrounds which feed them. I want it to be free of them as much as is possible in a story that is set in modern times.

So I needed to digest my view on Brexit and Trump, too. Again, I’m not fully done, but the focus needs to move off them.

Earlier today I picked up the pen again, so to speak. I’m using a keyboard, but I don’t think we’ve updated that phrase yet. I started sketching out the story of Steve and Katie, two new characters, and the events that have led both the start of the story. I’m not done, but the back story is forming up nicely in my mind. A new character popped into my head, detailed and interesting, and it gave further definition to the story. The protagonists are on the board.

The antagonists need a bit more work. There’s one for sure, but the motivation is a little vague, as is the interaction with the storyline. I enjoyed the way the main antagonist functioned in The Devil’s Playbook, but don’t simply want to re-use that approach. I want to go more aggressive, to be honest, but also want to have a level of complexity to it. But I think I can see how to do it.

And there’s the overall narrative structure as well. The Devil’s Playbook used a really fun way to tell two stories at the same time, and while I’d really enjoy doing that again, I don’t think I should. I need something of a more traditional approach, but will probably break it up with something that allows me to play with a visual style I used and liked in one or two scenes in The Devil’s Playbook. The particular details came to me halfway between mild intoxication and distinct inebriation one evening, but I’m happy for an idea to strike at any time — just so long as I can recall it when I’m next in a position to write it down.

This has been a long post, because I’m really enjoying writing today. I haven’t solved all of my problems, and I as wrote earlier, work is not exactly in the best shape. But the aim of this post was to move forward. To write something solid.

The placard for April has been shown to the audience, and the new scene has faded in. I’ve performed a patch on the sails, and simplified what’s left of the rigging; it won’t hold out against a storm and is unlikely to get me much further, but it will do for now. If you recall the closing scenes from The Truman Show, then I’m roughly in that same post-storm position as the titular character found himself. I’m at the tiller, prow cutting waves as wind gathers around the sails. I’ve picked a direction, too, because at this point none is better than any other, as long as they all head away from what I will leave behind. There may not be anything over the horizon, but I’m going there anyway.

As the ocean breeze catches my hair, I’m turning my face to the morning sun with a simple smile, taking time to enjoy the moment.

“April: The rising warmth.”