Nice, Linda...very smooth and easy to read and follow. Let's get that book done.
It’s hard to garner any sympathy about your wretched working conditions when you’re a freelance writer working at home. I can sit in my own family room, just steps from the kitchen where I can snatch a piece of that hot apple pie, set my own working hours and wear a tattered, coffee-stained robe and slippers shaped like frogs. Best of all, though, I can snooze in my worn Barcalounger. When someone accuses me of being a lazy, good-for-nothing slug, I can claim, in my most wounded, indignant voice, that I was thinking through a knotty plot problem.
Sometimes, though, even a writer feels the need to get out of the house. True, it necessitates putting on real clothes and shoes, but then, where exactly do we go? A gourmet cook can wander through the cookware department losing himself amidst the steamers, juicers, extra extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegars. Artists, too, can stroll through an art supply store, breathing in the heady smell of linseed oil, caressing the sable brushes, rejoicing in the myriad of colors of oils and acrylics.
Alas, there has never been such a store for the poor writer. Until now! I am pleased to announce the Grand Opening of the Fifth Street Five-Story Story Store. Attractively designed for the ease of the writer with lots of snacks and comfy chairs, this truly represents one-stop shopping.
FIRST FLOOR. NOTIONS. I am overwhelmed by the thousands of ideas so attractively displayed. Here’s a sampling of the notions available for the discerning writer: A mean-spirited tightwad learns the true meaning of Christmas; a disturbed young man has unnatural feelings for his mother and develops a serious vision problem; as Atlanta burns, a pretty young southern belle stresses about wardrobe; a big fish terrifies a seaside community; an unsinkable ship sinks; a young girl is sucked up by tornado and, with her goofy friends, goes in search of a spiritual guru.
SECOND FLOOR. PLOTS AND PLANS. Helpful consultants advise me what form in which the selected notion will be most effective. I can choose from novels, screenplays, teleplays, short stories, essays and poems (ranging all the way from haiku to epic). I am encouraged to always keep my eyes open to possible motion pictures sales.
THIRD FLOOR. MENS’ AND WOMEN’S DEPARTMENT. Now I need characters to populate my plot. Sitting so daintily at that white wrought iron table is my southern belle swilling down a mint julep; over there, an elderly British barrister wearing one of those silly white wigs is reviewing his briefs; on the front lawn, Bobby Bob is installing a gun-rack on his Ford F250 pick-up. They’re all here: Young, old, southern, European, cosmopolitan, rural, corrupt and noble. There is even a special teen-age department, as teenagers appear to have as much in common with your average adult as a sea slug has with a kumquat. In one corner will be the Millinery Department where black and white hats can be selected to further delineate my characters.
FOURTH FLOOR. ACCESSORIES. I select my title and pick up transitions and segues. I always try to stock up on the latter. As they say, you can never be too rich, too thin or have too many segues.
FIFTH FLOOR. CAFÉ AND GOURMET SHOP. I am exhausted from this grueling shopping foray. Here is a chance to relax with a double decaf mocha low-fat latte and a muffin in the restful, tastefully decorated café. Once I am renewed and re-energized, I pick up a dozen bon mots and a jar of red herrings at the gourmet section for a later snack and head home to begin writing the Great American novel...or screenplay...or essay...or haiku.
At home, I empty my bag of writing tricks onto the kitchen table and start cobbling together a story. Selecting characters and a suitable plot, I am soon able to actually start writing. The story flows out of me effortlessly as if divinely inspired. I’m sure it will become a classic, and in fact, has already been optioned for a mini-series for ABC. Here, then, is the synopsis for “The Last Smelt.”
Willie, a down-on-his-luck salesman, feels life is passing him by. He sits at the dinner table, looking at his family as if they were strangers. His wife, Blanche, blathers on about keeping up with the Gatsbys. She seems to have forgotten that she and Willie grew up together and he knows she is not, as she alleges, the last of the Romanoffs. She is really just the daughter of a lousy streetcar conductor. Willie’s also uncomfortable around his mean-spirited step-daughters, Goneril, Cordelia and Regan. The three sisters are always brewing up some trouble or other. Holden, Willie and Blanche’s only child together, is a goofy, pimply-faced kid with a penchant for wearing his baseball cap backwards and being contemptuous towards his father. Even Mrs. Danvers, the stern-faced housekeeper, takes every opportunity to remind Willie that Blanche’s first husband was more suitable in every way.
One morning, unable to face his dead-end sales job or his family another moment, Willie packs up a few belongings, leaves a terse farewell note and leaves. After a series of endless bus rides, bad truck stop food and tramp steamers, he eventually finds himself in Pamploma, Spain, soaking up the Mediterranean sun, watching bullfights, drinking a nice Merlot from a boda bag in the company of the sexy, zany, worldly Zelda.
But even that doesn’t last forever. Dorian, young and gorgeous – in a cheap timeless sort of way – captures Zelda’s heart. The Iberian sun is too harsh for her delicate skin and they’re off to study the architecture of covered bridges in Madison County.
Willie moves on, now totally disenchanted. Idly thumbing through “The National Enquirer,” he stumbles across a small blurb about the mysterious disappearance of the smelt. For reasons unclear to scientists, smelts are rapidly, inexplicably becoming extinct. After this year’s migration, they will be no more. Soon the word “smelt” will disappear from the language. Willie’s heart begins to quicken. Wouldn’t it be something to accompany the smelt on their fateful race toward extinction? To photograph, record and write down their final dying gasps. Willie realizes he would finally be able to contribute something meaningful.
He becomes absorbed in his task, devouring everything he can about the vanishing smelt. All too soon it is the day the smelt are to begin their final migration. To keep the smelt in the hearts and minds of children everywhere, it is up to Willie to document it all. But as he sits in his Winnebago, the old feelings of self-loathing and ennui suddenly overtake him. Who is he kidding? He isn’t equipped to cover such a momentous event. He lets his body sink into the warm embrace of his Barcalounger. He sighs with resignation. “I’ll think about it tomorrow,” he says, crushing the beer can in his hand.
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