Origin Story - This Will Have To Be Farewell
If you have not yet read This Will Have To Be Farewell, I urge you to do so before reading this post!
The latest piece is a slightly different approach compared to the two previous stories. Everything I showcase here on A Few Thousand Words is meant to be original content. Well, This Will Have To Be Farewell is indeed original content…but it’s a piece that I largely wrote about eight years ago. Farewell (just going to abbreviate it) is one chapter in a series that I started writing. In fact, the site still exists today but has remained largely untouched for about two years.
Within my closest circle (and now here), it is widely known that my dream is to become a published author. I always loved writing fiction. I discovered Blogger around 2008 right when an idea for a story was bouncing around in my head. The plan was to have the story in a place where trusted friends could go read the work and provide me with honest, constructive feedback. Blogging was still huge back then and Blogger was one of several (free) platforms available. I just fell in love with it for whatever reason. My aim was to present each post as a chapter in the “book”. The only problem was that sites like Blogger published posts in order of newest to oldest. I did, however, find a hacky way to force it to appear in a manner that mimicked chapters in a book.
Anyway, on to the story.
Not to give too much away because I am likely to re-visit the story at a later date, there is an “event”. It impacts the entire world. The larger story is told through the experiences of a group of people who eventually come together. Farewell is one that revolves around the character Kelly. She’s a nurse with a complicated history. At the time I began writing this, it was pre-The Walking Dead (the television show on AMC) and after Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later. But I will say that it is inspired by the 1980s television series V as well as Stephen King’s The Stand, ironically based on a deadly virus.
Note, if you want a great read, check out Justin Cronin’s The Passage. It’s the first in a trilogy of books.
Kelly is one of the main characters in my larger story. The character is almost entirely based on a young woman I met while working part-time in retail. She was extremely smart and very witty and extremely smart. She was also very easy on the eyes. But she was extremely smart.
The biggest issues was she had resting bitch face, which being that smart and dealing with dorks like me probably triggered such a face. She also had an air about her that made people think she was arrogant and stuck up. Very few knew her. Even fewer took the time to speak to her outside of anything work-related. Well, I did. I was struck because even when she opened up, she still seemed guarded. I once joked, “You could be a serial killer.” She gave me an evil little smile that I hope was more a put on than actual truth.
As with anything, I began to wonder what it would be like if she actually was a killer. Murderers aren’t always outwardly deranged lunatics, but are also people who hide in plain sight and seem absolutely normal until you get behind closed doors and you discover that they’re deranged friggin’ lunatics. But knowing this young woman (a little bit) made me realize that she had a soft underbelly. There was some heart there. So what happened? I began day dreaming wildly and created this backstory and universe (which all made it into the Blogger site) around her.
Needless to say, the Kelly character is one of my favorites. Of course I wrote this as if I’ve written and been published many times. Bit of the things I’ve written, she is a fav.
Taking My Time
One of the comments I had gotten was the pace. It took a while to go from leaving the closet to battling Dr. Nicholson to dealing with Mrs. Calloway.
“She was in the closet a long time,” one friend said to me.
Well there was a purpose, and it wasn’t simply to beef up the word count or put the reader in a holding pattern until I found my way. Successful or not, I wanted to try to build some form of tension. She was in the closet for some reason and the reader and, for a bit, Kelly don’t know why. She’s trying to piece things together and make sense of her situation. Still, she can feel that something isn’t right. There’s the smell of the smoke, which has to be coming from a fire. But what is even more disturbing for her is that the room—patient, furniture, and all—seems practically normal. The sense of “safety” was supposed to be unnerving. I was hoping to build a feeling that perhaps Kelly was a bit too cautious. There would be a reason.
One of the best, tense-filled scenes I’ve ever watched was from No Country For Old Men, when Javier Bardem’s killer Anton Chigurh is in a convenience store having an exchange with the owner. It was great. The man knew something was different about Bardem’s character and he reacted in kind. He did his best to somewhat politely get out of the situation but Bardem checkmated him at every step.
This isn’t to say Kelly sitting inside a closet for some unknown reason is on par with that scene, but it is something that I wanted to achieve. She’s in the closet first not even aware she’s in a closet, then taking stock of her well-being then noting that there is something not entirely right with the situation she is in. There is something inside her that is pulling her to sit and wait. In all, this was an exercise for me in trying to build tension without the typical set-ups like a person in some form of peril, a killer in pursuit, or a danger lurking just around the corner.
I am not purposely looking to create twists or “gotcha!” endings. Though twisty endings like The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense, and even Shawshank Redemption are great (and they’re also some of my favorite movies), they’re hard. And I don’t think I’m that talented to be able to pull it off each time. Looking over the slate of stories that I’m working on, they’re all pretty straightforward and not needing a shock type of ending. I do have an appreciation for stories that are rather straightforward—guy meets girl, falls in love, encounters conflict, wins her over, then happily ever after. Really, I just want to tell a great story from beginning to end. I don’t want to get caught up in trying to figure out a way to shock the reader in the end. Because it’s “my style” or it’s what I’m known for. I feel like this is the sort of trap that M. Night Shyamalan found himself in after writing and directing The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs, and (what I feel is completely underrated) The Village.
Anyway, Mrs. Calloway, we hardly knew ye. I do like the sick irony that someone who’s chief responsibility is to save lives, ultimately takes a life. There’s your twist if there is to be one.
I shared an early draft of this story with a friend when I first posted it. He thought it was great up until the end. His reasoning was that he wanted a quasi-happy ending and to exhibit the burden Mrs. Calloway would be as a result of being saved (you have to read the entire Blogger piece to understand). But not all endings are perfect nor are they happy. And this piece has the burden of being one of several chapters that paints a rather depressing overall theme of the entire “book”. Take my word for it.
Thanks for reading! I would love to know your thoughts not just on this story but on all of my postings to date. Until next time, please keep reading. Hit me up at email@example.com.