There are certain facts that underlie this book. This impending book I mentioned before. What do you mean you don’t know what I’m talking about? I SAID ALL THIS LAST POST TIME. Jack done write a book. And I’m writing about techniques here for the interested few, and to stagger towards some kind of “writing methodology.”
THESE ARE THREE FACTS:
- There is a band called Paris and the Hiltons, consisting of Phil Jourdan and Sam Folkes.
- I know these people. I live with one of them right now.
- They play the instruments I say they do. That is to say, Phil sings and plays guitar. Sam plays keyboards.
Those things don’t change in the book (although the living situation gets a little fuzzy). Straight away, those facts are established.
This is a biography, this isn’t a biography. This is a novel.
So. Decisions about what to keep from life and what to dispense with. The three facts exist as a sort of narrative anchor (narranchor). From there on everything becomes invention.
Why make that decision? Because:
- Writing about the reality is boring. Music is made in a very slow process of experimentation, failure, less failure, success. Furthermore, I have no musical aptitude at all. I’m unable to describe anything of any worth, musically speaking.
- Where’s the narrative there? It could be about the rise and fall of a band, tastes of fame, tastes of failure, except I think I’ve read that story quite a number of times and find it to be very tedious. There’s no reason to give the slightest shit.
- If I were to try and write a straight biography of the band, beyond finding it unimaginably dull, there would be too many things I couldn’t know, or wouldn’t want to. I could interview Sam and Phil, but they would naturally not want to tell me things that didn’t reflect well on them, as would anyone. At which point I would start embellishing, because I am a liar.
- Again, who cares? There’s no stake in the actual success of the band unless we are warmed to the characters. That’s possible. Someone could write that. I’m not going to write that because I would find it dull.
The novel opens in a bar called “Dug’s Wake”. A Paris and the Hiltons gig is about to take place. The main character, me, is sitting at the bar. I’m the main character, because then I can present the story as an outsider. That was always the idea. There’s a difference in how it evolved though.
The Original Concept
Jack Joslin, the character, is a borderline stalker who believes himself to be instrumental in the band’s success, and thinks of himself as a great friend to the two band members who, although polite to his face, have no idea who he is. Think Charles Kinbote in Pale Fire. There was to be a homoerotic subtext, frequent insinuations that I was in love with Phil and/or Sam, and that I would go to hugely uncomfortable lengths to be considered part of the band.
In my view, this isn’t a bad idea for a book. I might do it with something else. But it didn’t work, because I started finding a different voice for the narrator. Me.
Fiction As Excavation of Selfshit
A bizarre reflection comes when you put yourself in a story. I do it a fair bit. I’ll come on to why in a second. But there was a strange dialectical process towards the Jack Joslin character that comprises the final book.
The first Jack, from other stories, was a sort of laconic and quiet narrator, impassive and accepting. Reasons for doing this? Because I wasn’t particularly good at having a narrator with a voice yet. Because I wanted to put myself in fiction, but wasn’t sure who I was or what I wanted to sound like. This seemed like the best option. Problem: No honesty. I am not a cool and impassive loner, leaning against a brick wall with a… with a toothpick in my mouth, like loners do. Even if I was, that’s not exactly interesting.
Weird discomfort crept in also: I was trying to make myself look good in writing. Granted, no one would read the bloody thing. But it made me feel uncomfortable, as though I’d been bought a round of drinks because I had told people that I was a moviestar. Or at least implied it. Not interesting.
The second Jack, the one I mentioned a minute ago, the original star of this book, went to the other extreme. Like a frenzied steroid junkie whipping out a shrivelled penis (most likely his) rendered useless by muscledrug, so that he can humiliate himself and thus prevent others doing it. That’s what I was doing. (I’m not a steroid junkie and my penis is almost average size.) I was all smug and proud that I’d found a way to present myself that didn’t look arrogant. But it was. I wasn’t permitting real vulnerability or human emotions. It was just a stupid clown, full of eccentricities, only alike me in name.
Wrote about 5,000/6,000 words in that voice. I didn’t like him.
It was a formula. Social event appears! Jack engages with social event in abrasive and stupid way! All is lost! Hahaha!
NEW AND IMPROVED JACK THREE, the humble narrator, the one that will be in the final work, is born!
Still a twat. That’s the thing though: you can be a twat and still sympathetic. This Jack Joslin has a great deal of me in him, to the point of potential embarrassment. It took a lot of meditating on how to make him interesting, to think of various literary devices to evoke both a sense of being pathetic and sympathy at the same time. There are things in there… I don’t even want to point out the real bits.
This Jack is terrible with women, he is rude and discourteous and jealous and then utterly bewildered and enraged when they refuse him. But this comes from a place of desperation and loneliness.
This Jack is a liar and a coward, who picks fights with people and then begs for mercy. Who blames the world for his misery. Who takes small and petty revenges and is constantly in mental conflict about them. This guy is still a twat, but there’s sympathy. He’s just very alone and doesn’t think things through.
He’s very flawed. Very. So flawed that, in the course of the book, he will accidentally begin a process in which billions die.
Fulfilling earlier promise of explaining why Jack Joslin frequently uses Jack Joslin as narrator
Narcissism. And exploring the fuzzy boundaries between fact and fiction, and what effect it has on fiction if some things in it are completely true or, even more interestingly, what effect it has if you adamantly insist everything’s true, especially if it’s impossible.