The Last Lap

So, my original plan with this blog was to follow the creation process of a novel from beginning to end.  To go through all of the shit and imagining and work, and lay it out here.  Things didn’t work out that way, mostly due to my own laziness and reticence to even start this thing.

I started the background notes and “imagining” process for DockRat back in November of 2015–some of the ideas and work date to much earlier, while I was working on other stuff, but for the sake of ease we can pin the beginning of the process there.  I didn’t start this blog until…oh…July.  So much for blogging the entire process…sorry about that.

Can’t you just feel the warmth of my sincerity when I apologize?  Me either.

Get over it.

At any rate, I have been neglecting to post here lately because I have been, well, writing.  I am at the end of the process, and I have thrown pretty much every available minute into writing and/or…well…drinking.  The two kind go together, especially for this book.  {Note – one of my beta-readers said Connor came across as an alcoholic, and my response was, “No shit.”}

To be honest, and blunt: I’m almost there.  Like, REALLY almost there.

The official first draft of this story will by done by the end of the week.  THIS week.  I have three scenes left.  Three.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but the hard part is that two of the scenes are rewrites.  The last two scenes.  The ones I wrote before I started anything else.  Obviously I have to adjust and change them based on everything I’ve written/created in the meantime, but they already exist.  Should be easy, right?  Nope, not a chance…that’s the part that scares me.  Those two will be the last scenes I write for this story.

You know who Oz is to me…I know you know because I told you.  Now I have to go through the end of the story again.

I have to kill Oz…again.

I’ve already killed him, and I don’t know if I can do it again.  Killing Oz, each and every time I revise that scene, feels like reliving the suicides from my own past.

I can’t punch that ticket anymore.

At its core, this is a story about suicide…I want folks who never talk about the subject to learn and understand just a portion of the grief we survivors feel when someone hopeless and miserable dies by their own hand.  I’ve lived it, I know it…and it is harder than hell to write. Why do I do it?

Because I understand.

Because I’ve cried over the tombstones of friends.

Because I’ve wondered just what clues I missed.

Because I’ve felt the guilt and responsibility.

Because I’ve tried myself.

I have to write Oz, and I have to make him matter…to me, to you, and to every single person I can threaten/bribe/intimidate/cajole into reading this book when it’s finally done.

Oh, I am in a Mood…

Some days you get the bear, some days the bear gets you.

Writing is, to me at least, a thing of mood and momentum. Some days the work just flows and I know I’m turning out good stuff. Those days, I’m in the right mood, those days I get the bear.

Others? Not so much. Every word is slow, and every thought takes seemingly forever. You still write–you always write–but you just know that you’ll have work to do later to clean up and beat into shape what you’re working on. Those days I’m not in the mood, those days that goddamned bear gets me. Those are the days, to be honest, when you start to question all the time and effort, when you wonder if you shouldn’t just settle back into the miserable life of an office cube-monkey.

But the good days…the good days make up for all the shitty ones. When you’re in the mood, when momentum is on your side, and you write a scene that you know nails everything you intended. Those are the days you wonder how you could ever abandon the writing.

Thank God I’ve had several of those good days lately, days where the words did exactly what I wanted and needed them to. Five scenes written in three days, and two of those feel like some of the best stuff I’ve ever written. Connor has taken on his own life and voice, and he doesn’t always agree with me, and that makes it all worth it.

Now I have to go write another scene…the hangover isn’t helping, but fuck it. Shou ga nai, right?

Maybe I don’t have to go back to that fucking cube after all.

My Favorite Character

I gave a bit of info and background on Connor last week, so now it’s time for something about the other main character: Oz.

In Connor’s friend and counter-part I wanted a character that had about him, on the surface, all kinds of questions and mysteries, and an awful lot of cognitive dissonance.

Oz is intelligent–brilliant, even–and a world-class manipulator of people’s baser instincts. He is smooth and confident and very, very capable. He is also a very-nearly-perfect physical specimen in some respects, even if he is slightly androgynous (think some of the Japanese anime heroes). He is always perfectly dressed, always sophisticated and fresh. He can be, literally, anything to anyone….and that is very much his job.

I dance around the topic a bit in the book, but the simple fact is that Oz is a whore. He’s belonged to one brothel or another since he was seven years old.  That living hell, all he has known, completely defined his life…until he met Connor. In Connor’s friendship he finally found more.

To the rest of the world Oz is cynical and arrogant, but beneath it all Oz is also incredibly caring and vulnerable. He is also completely and totally in love with Connor…a love he knows his friend can never return. That, however, doesn’t matter to him. To a whore, love is not the physical act; sex is just business. No, to Oz, love is intimacy and trust in a world where neither of those really exist.

He and Connor live in an intimacy and trust with each other that he cannot imagine ever finding again…and that is enough for Oz. So long as the pair have their stasis, their life as roommates and ‘brothers’, he has everything he wants.

Such love is also, for someone like Oz, a zero-sum game. Love and care and trust cannot increase in one relationship without being taken from another. Every step of the way as Connor falls in love with Nat, Oz feels the only person who means anything to him slipping away. He has, in all honesty, no real life or self-identity outside of Connor. The loss of the boys’ stasis is the most devastating and overwhelming thing that could possibly happen to him.

As Connor begins to grow away from what dockside has turned him into (a junkie, a thief, and a liar), Oz sinks farther and farther into hopeless despair and misery until all he can do is lash out. If he has to suffer, so does everyone else.

All that is the background stuff, the character sheet stuff. I have pages and pages on my characters…especially on Oz.

But the simple fact of the matter is that Oz represents the ghosts from my own past, the friends that have killed themselves. Oz is gay, and is in love with someone completely and totally outside of that kind of relationship. As were two of the three friends of mine who committed suicide.

Oz is my pain at their deaths. Oz is all the signs I missed. Oz is them.