7.12.2009

Following Barney Banks #6


The interesting thing about this is that AS YOU GO, ideas arrive, but more importantly, half-ideas develop further. You absolutely have to start.

Status 7-10-09:

At this point, a mere 10 pages in (it reads so fast!) I am now in a new place. I don't have a plan for my next step. But this starting was essential, and I can begin to sort through the huge number of notes I've been assembling for years (though to emphasize, I think the bulk of the important ones have been one year or less) and now can start to see if there is a structure where I think there is one.

Three things to me are essential: 1- that Banks has seizures, and these mark at least two important structural points in the book. These things start or end sections. 2- That Banks feeling accepted ruins him. 3- I'd like it to be made up of small sections, and if so, then every other section must be a unique or slightly untraditional storytelling form. In between, the bulk, will be the main Barney Banks story, told in traditional omniscient form.

Why the structural changes? Because I WANT to. Because part of what I want to explore, in addition to Barney's character, and the epilepsy that has me haunted, and Barney's thematic inclinations (imagination vs action, girls, asocial behavior, girls, etc.) are the formal possibilities of tone of voice, point of view, differing rhythms, etc.

And now, I'm at the end of the first traditional section, and I know that the next should be something else, formally.

I go by hunches based on prior work and details: I know there is a thing in the world that is a sort of electric meter looking thing. Dials for eyes and a mouth that spouts paper. I know there are a bunch of kids around. I know we're in a campground. I want there to be a big hippo in a pond or stream, but haven't been convinced of that yet. I know Banks will get to know his rescuer, Lodi, well. I know she is slightly to the side of the other kids in that she works here. I think this is all I know. I have notes for wordplay- conversations, possible plot points. And importantly: images that are enchanting me. The meter-creature mentioned above, spouting out pieces of... wisdom? Advice? The hippo in the lake. Lodi surrounded by fans. Barney standing up, asserting himself, shouting, etc. Barney lying in a ditch, Barney floating around as a ghost.

So this being where I'm at, I pulled out all of my cards to see if there's a structure. It feels like a seizure should mark 6:00- the lowest point, or if not a seizure, then something more desperate. Another image is in there, and has been for a while: Barney listening to Lodi and another character copulating in a tent. Disgusting. Perfect for Barney's lowest moment. Does he barge in? Make himself known? Fall apart? Something. Let's mark this as the lowest point, and pull the seizure (his first or his second?) out of this scene.

I know "entering the new world" means starting to figure things out, starting to learn. And I know for Banks to go from who he is at the beginning (somewhat arrogant, somewhat hopeless old guy) to arrogant loud and suspicious, he needs to shed some of his hopelessness, he needs to have some minor successes to get his courage up. So there's the beginning of an arc: the character starts to become friendly with Lodi, or accepted by others, and this propels him into being more brave, more arrogant, more suspicious. What ever culminating event that comes from this arc needs to project him further or elsewhere: into redemption or into something worse than before. For it to feel like a story, that's what needs to happen.

A lot of this is internal for me, and I know innately that Banks never wins, so we need to pick the "something worse." Now the image of the ditch pops up. Lying in a ditch is pretty good. I mean pretty bad, and maybe useful in these later sections. Banks can go farther into desperation, as he tries (though there's not a chance of it now, since he has humiliated himself) to ingratiate himself further into the worlds of the kids. Things are getting worse, things are getting hopeless. He's could die here and who would care?

So this starts to feel like a plot-less, detail-less structure. And with that in hand, I thumb through my cards. I divide the sections into "Acts" 1, 2 and 3. (This is traditional, but I don't always do it. Here it feels right.)

The picture above shows the organization process.

Below is the final stack full of ideas for each section, each act. Will all of these work? Will this remain exact? Is this an exact plan? No, no and no. But these are possible, probably points to reach. A plan in case no better plan emerges. In a project like this, we like a better plan to emerge. The structure may remain, but the details may arise as we go, feeding off the details we've already noted, or coming simply from the process of working.


Next: That darn next section.

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