A Wrimo Remembers: Episode 1

Corona typewriter
I’m not participating in NaNoWrimo this year, but I did take part a few years ago. I didn’t reach the 50,000 word finish line, but the experience taught me a lot about the perseverance and humility needed to be a writer. In what I hope will be inspirational to Wrimos everywhere, and especially my newly discovered writing friends, I will be re-posting short excerpts from blog posts I wrote while trying to type 50,000 novel-shaped words. I will also post some of the unfinished, barely paragraphed, unproofed, and so very raw book itself. Working titled, My Soul to Find, the story’s about a jaded ad executive who decides to thwart the political campaign of a recently acquired client. Enjoy!

from “Overture, Curtain, Lights”, Oct 31, 2007

Believe in your characters. Believe in their environment. Know that when you stare at a blank screen, the screen is staring back, accusing you. Your only requital is to fill that screen with words. Now, write Wrimos! Write!

from Chapter VIII, (Jason is the main character)

Early March in Preston was beautiful. A rapidly growing city close to North Carolina’s Piedmont, the main roads leading into town were lined with ancient trees. Their boughs stretched into comforting arches that overshadowed the streets. Like many southern towns, Preston’s economy was transitioning from agriculture to technology. It was happening all over the south, but a little bit slower than expected in Preston. While younger residents welcomed the change, many descendants of the town’s original land barons were not happy with the resulting increases in the transplant population. Their rage was not specifically directed toward Yankees, but there was a nearly phobic distrust and intrensic dislike of people who weren’t originally from the surrounding area. And a special disdain still existed for people who came from above the Mason-Dixon line.

That disdain immediately put Jason at odds with the locals when he moved to Preston years ago. His unaccented midwestern English was often mistaken for a northern dialect. The misconception never led to a physical confrontation, but it frequently earned him what he came to label the Universal Stare. It was a way the locals had of acknowledging, assessing, and dismissing a person with a single glance. Mythical southern hospitality often prevented people from engaging him directly with the Stare. So it was usually administered by persons along his periphery, for instance, nearby customers who overheard him ask for unsweet tea. Shortly after relocating he developed the disarming habit of staring back for a brief moment before smiling and drawing the perpetrator into idle banter. Most of the time the stranger’s Pavlovian response was to smile back and exchange some equally shallow conversation. What started out as a game soon began to net him seemingly arcane, but increasingly valuable information. Where to buy the best collards (a roadside stand five miles west of town: one dollar a head and no worms), who to trust for a ten dollar haircut (Melvin Watts: serving black and white patrons for forty years), and who to see about a broken transmission (Junior Colt: his full disability status restricted the amount of money he could earn, but he did expert work).

Grocery store check-out lines, gas pumps at convenience marts, playgrounds in local parks: This thread of casual conversation actually formed the pipeline through which important information passed. But every benign tidbit passed along by this human grapevine had its darker counterpart. If one learned that the librarian’s daughter gave birth to a healthy boy one day, the next day (perhaps while buying socks at Wal-Mart) would bring news that the father of the baby wasn’t the girl’s husband (He was stationed in Iraq). It wasn’t gossip; the continuous flow was usually based on substantiated information from knowledgable sources. In fact, the vetting of facts through the local grapevine was often more rigorous than research done by evening news anchors.
It was through one of these interactions that Jason first began to suspect that Ted Jannock’s motives for running for Senate weren’t altogether pure. He didn’t expect the man to be squeaky clean; what politician was? His personal research showed Jannock to be a very capable consensus builder. He made sure his successes got maximum exposure, while downplaying his failures. Jason was ready to accept the proverbial bad with the good. Jannock looked toward the future; that was a good thing. Like Jason, he could see a time when the good ‘ole boy network would have to give way to the infusion of young new blood. Preston’s future citizens were citizens of the world. Black, white, red, brown: the next generation was more concerned with the color of their tap water than the color of their neighbor’s skin. They viewed the once accepted, casual racism of small towns as a hindrance to growth. Jason saw Jannock as the kind of man that could govern this new constituency. He wasn’t about to withdraw his support of the man based on one or two shady deals. It was only whisperings from the pipeline that encouraged him to dig a little deeper.