Wednesday, June 16, 2010

my own toy story

In my heart of hearts, I've always wanted to be a writer. Yeah, I know I write now (been published, too), but that's academics. And although I am also a published poet, that's a lifestyle of which I never really aspired...too tortured. No, what I always wanted to be was a novelist.

Perhaps it goes back again to Twain. Although my parental units tell me that I liked to “read” at an early age, flipping through books as if soaking up the words via osmosis long before I actually knew how to read, the earliest books I actually remember reading were the children's adaptations/abridgments of classic novels...but I remember being so struck by A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (particularly the very gruesome scene where The Boss takes on all of England's knighthood, and soon the knight's corpses are surrounding his castle, their armor brushing against electrified fences) that I begged for the real version of the book...and I became a fan of novels.

I had some early attempts at writing a novel of my own, but they were really fragmentary and had no real concept of plot or character. The early works were horror novels in the making. Now, I'm sure that if you can get away with faceless characters and little plot anywhere, the horror genre is the place to be. However, I couldn't figure out what any of these nascent books were really about (a key factor for even a very young novelist-to-be), and they were all quickly abandoned.

I did have one fairly serious push to become a novelist in me, and that hit when I was in my early years of grad school. It would've been a good one, too. The novel concerned a (with a not too subtle autobiographical slant) a young man who couldn't grow up. This failure to mature was manifest in what I thought was a pretty interesting way. See, the protagonist still had his room festooned with many of his childhood toys and other such decorations from his past. One night, they came alive and, spurred by the efforts of two curmudgeonly gargoyle figures, started an active rebellion/open war against the protagonist.

The opening chapter, when debuted to my grad school creative writing class, got positive feedback. They thought it was lively and fun. They pointed out to me that the toys had more character than the protagonist, but that was a design the “war” between them progressed and the balance of power shifted, so would the characterization. While the protagonist started out with no character and the toys with tremendous personality, everything would reverse until, when the guy won the war, he would become fairly realized, while the toys would, in defeat, become mere toys.

Everything was going both swell and swimmingly. I busted out a few more chapters. I had real ideas on how to make the novel work. I finished writing chapter four, describing the aftermath of one toy-versus-man battle in the style of Red Dawn (particularly in the style of the Cuban general's letter to his wife) (also, Wolverines!!!!) (sorry for that). I had real hope that I'd actually finish the damn thing this time, and it would be good to boot.

Then one of my colleagues from the creative writing class asked me if I had heard of this new movie Toy Story. When they described the plot to me, my jaw dropped. Then I saw it. Granted, they were doing a very different story than I, but still, there were enough similarities between the two where everyone to whom I described my novel would ask, “have you seen Toy Story?”

So I gave up the novel. It's just as well, because even if the original Toy Story wasn't all that close in its specifics to my tale, the sequel (particularly in Jessie's flashback) came frightfully close. The rest of my academic life was also intruding, and I realized that, in between full time grad work and three different part time jobs, I just didn't have time to write anyway. And when I later found out that the movie was the product of such writers as Joss Whedon and Joel Coen, I realized that I could've never competed anyway. You see, my ego does actually know some bounds!

Flash forward to today. I've never written a complete novel to this point in my life. However, I do have yet another novel idea bouncing around my skull all summer. It would be a cool one, too, the story of an aspiring rock musician, colored with all sorts of anecdotes from my own playing experiences (and from my musician friends, who might recognize whole periods of their lives in the narrative). I could make it work. But I also have way too much academic writing left to do, and the very real timeline of this upcoming season being my last shot on the market (for at least a few years, but maybe forever) is lighting a fire under this novel too goes into the ever-increasing “I don't have the time” file.

And what opens tomorrow? Toy Story 3. I guess it's time to see how much of my planned toy rebellion novel makes the screen this time.

1 comment:

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