Thursday, November 24, 2011

Things Become Momentarily Real

First of all, happy Thanksgiving, everybody!  I hope you've each eaten many turkeys and gravies by now.  Lord knows we can't let them rest after what they've done.  (They know what they did).  If you're not American and didn't celebrate Thanksgiving today, then I wish you a happy Thursday.  Thursdays are pretty fantastic, too!

But that's not really the point of all this.  No, I actually wanted to tell a little story, about myself.  It's not really a story so much as a description of a train of thought, experienced over the course of about ten minutes.

Like most people, I fantasize.  In fact, I fantasize a lot.  In the car, on the street, in the shower; wherever I am, even if I seem to be paying attention to something else, my brain is often constructing an alternate universe of thoughts and ideas that everyone else finds very interesting indeed.  It's a useful byproduct of my amateur insanity, because it provides me with conversation topics (not usually as useful in the shower), as well as ideas that sometimes find their way into the words I scribble on the computer screen.

About a week and a half ago I had one such story idea.  Actually, and improbably, it began with a title.  While running bizarre and unconventional sentences through my head, analyzing them for phonetic and metrical beauty (or whatever strikes me as beautiful), I happened upon the phrase "a hundred degrees in my head."  I liked it, and my first thought was to use it in a poem.  It suggested a lot of things: fevers, obviously, but also uncomfortable buzzing of an overclocked, overstressed brain, or a mind on the cusp of a meltdown.  It had that familiar um-DA-da um-DA-da um-DA beat, long associated with some of our culture's finest poetry, and it struck me that I'd never heard anyone say it before, even though it was (I thought) a pretty awesome line.

But before I could think of any accompanying lines, I began wondering, and fantasizing, about what sort of things (apart from spontaneous illness) might make someone's head feel superheated.  It struck me that A Hundred Degrees in my Head might make an excellent short story title, and since my record with titles is remarkably dismal, I thought it would be a bad idea to waste this one.

My fantasy immediately sprung into action.  Half-thinking, half-mumbling, I assembled the skeleton of a basic plot.  I cobbled together disparate snatches of autobiography and furtive melodrama, with an eye to something both fictional and true-to-life.  A sequence of progressive vignettes took shape in my mind's eye: a series of misfortunes and disappointments, climaxing in a mental and physical collapse, followed by a slow slide into a jaded paralysis.  It was pretty depressing.  I liked it.

By the time I was out of the shower (for I'd been there the whole time!), I had practically scored the entire thing to music, having developed grandiose plans to film my newest opus.  With a camera and some actors, we could shoot the movie on a modest budget.  We would take Sundance by storm.  I'd make a million dollars and retire to France, eating all the hot, buttery croissants a million dollars could buy.

I was getting the slightest bit ahead of myself.  I decided to stick to what I knew, or thought I knew: the short story form (movie rights can always be negotiated later).  But even so, I felt energized.  I was genuinely excited by the story.  It had potential; it felt honest, expressive, even relevant to today's issues and stuff.  I wanted to do a really good job on it.  And supposing I did, was it unreasonable to think of finally getting seeking some form of professional publication?

Suddenly, it felt like a hundred degrees in my head.

As it is, I'm still running the story through its paces.  Plot details have to be ironed out, characters have to be named.  The right tone still has to be set.  But I feel really good about it.  If its potential holds up, I may try some things I've never tried before.  Right now, I've got to focus on getting it off the ground.

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