Writing yourself into a box

June 29th, 2007

I’ve done it before- start a story, things are shaping up nicely… and suddenly you run out of ideas, or the story takes a turn you can’t seem to flesh out. I’m staring that in the face right now with a story line on 3500years.com. It starts with this post, titled Dalene.

The comment thread in that post is great and if I’d had any brains I would have let it end there, but nooooo… I had to follow up with this post, titled 1967. This was also pretty satisfying, and again, I could have left it at that. Probably should have. The problem is, I had the beginning and the ending of a story- it was impossible to resist the urge to fill in the details, particularly since a fiction blog is always short on material.

It’s been my experience that the most important thing to know about a story before you start writing is how it will end, and here I had it- beginning and ending. The rest would be a snap! Unfortunately, the characters in the story are refusing to cooperate and suddenly I realize that the ending I had in mind is pretty damned weak. I would change it, but it breaks the continuity of the blog, something that is very important to me both personally and creatively.

Here are the characters:

Zsallia (under the name Angevin DuMarmande and playing the part of a French prostitute in new Orleans circa 1964)

Dalene Carr:

Dalene is nineteen in 1964. She grew up in New York City and was an accomplished classical guitarist at 16, with what looked like a promising future in music. This came crashing down around her when her father discovered she was a lesbian and forcibly married her off to a man who essentially held her captive and raped her on a daily basis. When she inevitably got pregnant she persuaded her husband to take her to a doctor in Albany where she took her chance and managed to slip away. She eventaully landed in New Orleans where a pimp named Jacques reeled her in, helping her get an abortion, then pressing her into prostitution. When she and Zsallia meet Dalene is a hard-core heroin addict rapidly sliding towards her death and not caring about anything or anyone other than her two freinds, Neff and Aiko.

Nefirtiri (Neff) Obanya:

Neff is also nineteen as this opens. From a devoutly Muslim family, she fled under circumstance similar to Dalene’s, but in her case her family was preparing to murder her after they discovered she was gay. From California she eventually landed in New Orleans where Jacques managed to drag her into his prostitution ring. Originally Neff was just background, but as soon as the story opened up I realized there were no background characters and Neff grew into an almost Earth Mother figure, a transformation that is not well expressed in the story to date. She is the calm one, the one Dalene and Aiko (described next) rely upon when things seem to spin out of control. For Neff’s part she’s as confused and lost as the others, but she puts up a good fascade. She doesn’t know how long she can keep it up and it terrifies her to think what will happen when she finally cracks.

Aiko Oshima:

The daughter of a Japanese father and Swedish mother Aiko is unusually and strikingly attractive. She’s eighteen when the story opens in 1964 and has been on the streets since the age of twelve. Her family fell apart and her father returned to Japan, leaving she and her mother on their own. Her mother descended into alcoholism and when Aiko was moved into foster care she decided she was having none of it and set out on her own. Her mother still lives in Metarie, but Aiko has never sought her out. A prostitute since the age of fourteen, Aiko is the least stable of the three, her tough-girl act so transparent as to be pitiful. She and Neff became attached to each other soon after Neff arrived in New Orleans (Jacques used Aiko to recruit other girls, something that she hated doing, but did because Jacques took care of her and, of course, she was afraid of what he would do if she let him down). The two of them were together for a year before Darlene arrived.

Zsallia’s first encounter with them is recounted an a post titled 1963.