The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Taking Notes & Funnin' With You

by Denis Taillefer

I often ponder on what genre of novel I'd like to write. I'd definitely want it character driven, and I'd like at least some goofiness in my characters. Something in the vein of John Kennedy Toole's, A Confederacy Of Dunces, maybe. But I never did finish reading that novel, so, I should revisit it and see why. Or maybe a dramedy à la Nick Hornby. Or with eccentric characters that you find in Anne Tyler novels. But when I get ideas for characters or partial scenes, I don't jot them down, and soon forget. I'm too disorganized. But that will change, starting today. So here's two recent thoughts I'm noting for potential, future use in goofy scenes…

The man with all the pockets: (An idea inspired from the fact that, now, being retired, my pockets are no longer bottomless.)

A single man who is annoyingly meticulous. He's got 5 labeled margarine containers where he keeps his money. One for his weekly allowance (maybe just enough for cigarettes, single malt scotch, and one music CD or book per week), another for groceries, one for unpredicted expenses (a light bulb burns out, white sports socks are now pink as they were tossed into the wrong wash load); still another for gas for his moped (perhaps he only buys gas at Canadian Tire as they give coupons when you pay cash), and one for emergencies (the moped breaks down, his wisdom tooth needs pulling, etc.).

He is proud when moneys remain in either of these containers at the end of the week, as he needs not withdraw as much on the following week. So when he steps out of his house, he stuffs this money into five different pockets (I guess he has to wear a jacket year round), and he has to be aware of which one to pull money from, or his scheme is shot and his books won't balance.

Sample snippet of a scene in play format--how about in a bookstore:

(The man approaches the cashier and deposits a book on the counter.)

Cashier: That will be $17.07, please.

(The man hesitates. A do it yourself plumbing reference manual is not what you'd call leisure reading, yet his faucets are only leaking just a tad. He reaches for his rear left pocket, then switches to front right, where he digs out a fifty-dollar bill.)

Man: Give me a second; I must have 7 cents in there, somewhere.

Cashier: I'm really tight for change. You don't have a smaller bill, do you?

Man: Yes, but it's in a different pocket.

Cashier: Uh huh.

The mark of things to come: (Not inspired by any specific persons. Really. Nevermind.)

A couple's relationship has diminished in intimacy, over the years. In fact, they rarely make love anymore. But one day, when the planets are aligned just so and they've had a little bubbly with their orange juice, they decide to set dates for future rendezvous by marking their year planner affixed on their office wall. Just asterisks beside a specific day, camouflaged among other scheduled appointments; the dentist, doctor, mechanic, etc.

They decide on an asterisk to ensure that no one else glancing at the calendar will clue in on its meaning. (They are also quite shy and a little prudish, perhaps.) The idea is for him to use a blue marker, and hers will be red. So when two asterisks of different colours are drawn side by side within the same block, it's a date.

Sample snippet of a scene:

Jules notices he's been driving somewhat fast, lately, especially on his trips home, after work. He decides to slow down in fear of being pulled over by a cop, and forced to ride his moped on the street with the cars. (No, it's not the same guy.)

Upon entering his flat, he chucks his keys onto the kitchen table and sprints upstairs. Damn it. The whole month of May still shows nothing but blue asterisks. Jules licks his thumb and with it erases every second day's mark. Perhaps now it will appear less intimidating.

No. That's a little cliché. How about:

Jules is pleased to see that red asterisks have appeared on the calendar, but nowhere near his blue ones. He is about to join in on some of her dates when he sees a pattern forming. And he is but one square away from being tic-tac-toed. Oh, she's clever. But he's onto her.

That might be over-the-top. Maybe:

Jules squints at the calendar and tries to make sense of what he sees. All of his wife's marks already have an asterisk beside them. And they're purple.


I'll likely not use either of these ideas in a future story. I may not even write comedy. But at least, now, I'm taking notes.


Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Good for you! I can't imagine how anyone writes a novel. It takes all my organizational ability to pull a short story together. And even with that, my started to completed ratio is 1000:1. I've been imagining linked short stories! That's the furthest down the road I've been able to visualize. (I'm reading "The Corrections" right now, and I'm insanely jealous!)

Tue May 23, 09:22:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Denis Taillefer said...

Linked short stories sounds very interesting. I'm reminded of Ray Bradbury's Illustrated man. And, I think Carver's Short Cuts might be along those lines. I'm organizing my office as we speak. All of this orderliness is inspiring me to plan and write! And now I must look into The Corrections. Cheers, mate!

Tue May 23, 10:31:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Andrew, have you read the essay "Envy"?

Tue May 23, 11:25:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Yes, Denis, by all means, keep on taking notes! This is hilarious!

Fri May 26, 08:46:00 am GMT-4  

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