6.02.2009

There's a guy in a ditch

There's a guy in a ditch. It's Barney Banks maybe. He's determined to die there. He thinks everyone will be horrified, will try to stop him, but no one cares.

Why should the reader? This is my dilemma.

Been reading two plays by Sophocles that use these themes: Ajax, and Philoctetes (also last year: Oedipus at Colonus). Both are characters damaged by the Trojan war, each in a unique situation and expressing their despair in a unique way. Ajax goes crazy, tries to slaughter his army platoon and instead slaughters a head of livestock, flaying and torturing them in his own tent. Philoctetes, suffering a festering foot wound is set to die on the random island Odysseus left him behind on.

Banks is just a jerk. Never liked, no one ever loved him. He's fed up, and rightfully so.

But the fed up character who is interesting DOES SOMETHING.

Going to lie in a ditch is STOPPING DOING SOMETHING. It's not doing anything. Is it active? How can this become a story?

My ideas: a series of past friends and loves come by. Suddenly he has a social network. Who are these people? And if Banks suddenly has old friends and family, why is he so fed up? Now we have to get more specific.

Another idea: he rattles off all the things he's done in his life. Most of these false, but at least gives me something to dramatize. But it still leaves the question: what the heck is Barney Banks so upset about? The important question is

WHEN DID HE WAKE UP?

If he lived his life unconsciously, stupidly, but now he's cogent enough to be specific and resentful, when did he wake up, and who did he confront? Who got the brunt of that? Going to die in a ditch is a last action, after all else has failed. Reconciliation has failed. Social integration has failed. Revenge has failed. Begging for love has failed. Then you go die.

So why do I begin so many stories in my head with a nothing character doing nothing?

And where does Samuel Beckett come in?

Just thinking out loud.

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