I started working on my new book this summer. I have the basics of the plot, and a good idea of who the characters will be, and the metaphorical underlying message.... My next step is to break the story down into chapters and add a few minor plot twists to keep the action moving. In my last novel, I didn't do this until almost the end of the book, because I believed that somehow my education would just produce a good book if I sat down and wrote. And write I did, for years, thousands if not millions of pages were written and thrown away... In the end, One War is only about 130 pages. It is tight. I really, really, need to send it off again. But, more importantly, I need to get going on my new bo
I am truly going to write this book on line, so if that interests you, follow along... Any comments you can make will be thoughtfully considered.
Okay, here is the basic synopsis of the book...
Four fine arts painter are living in an apartment above a sleazy bar, that was inherited by one of the painters. They keep a web sight, where they publish humor and essays... Basically, they are trying to replace the bible with a moral way of living godless.
This goes along just fine for a few years. They split the bar into two spaces, and open a gallery for their paintings. The apartment is in Wicker Park, on the corner of Milwaukee and Damen, a real party spot that is crowded with characters day and night. Their insular world of just painting and hanging around intellectuals starts to fall apart when a new guy shows up, a painter of talent and well read. He is a big fan of their blog, and wants to come and live with them, basically. They are used to couch surfers and let him stay 'for awhile.'
Jonathon, the new character, is fresh out of prison and violating his parole by leaving Indiana, where he was incarcerated for armed robbery. In prison, being a young man, there were a lot of advances made upon and he indeed did find he was bisexual... he doesn't want the others to know this, let alone that he was raped three times during his stay, forcing him to finally become the 'bitch' of a somewhat vicious black prisoner. He survived the experience by using heroin, drinking mouth wash and cologne; anything to get him high. He also spent a lot of time in the prison library, where he was aloud to surf the net, which is how he first learned about the little collective of artists with a gallery called The Elves Attic.
Jonathon frequently wrote comments and praise on their sight, under the monsieur of, perhaps, Shecky Mellon Head (all of this is subject to change).
The other artists are very interested in crime, and feel like they are responsible for the well being of the customers in their bar, which is a total dive frequented by the neighborhood drunks and punk rocker types who like the juke box, which has hard core metal, punk, industrial; as well as a lot country, the good old stuff by Johnny Cash, Merl Haggard, George Jones... the regulars seldom play the juke box, but when they do of course it is country.
This idea that they have to protect anyone, including animals, who are having problems. This leads them to break up bar fights, stop muggings, etc... But up until Jonathan comes, they manage to do so with a minimum of violence.
Jonathan becomes the catalyst that takes them from just writing about justice and doing the small policing of their corner, which has a game store, carry outs, and small theater; and lots and lots of bars.
One of the people living at the apartment above the bar is not an artist, but a kid who has a junkie mother who is a shelter, where the kid got all of his stuff stolen from him the one night he stayed there. He is a vegetarian, and a great lover of animals, as they all are. The trouble starts when this kid discovers that there are dog fights going on in their neighborhood. They know this because they find a couple dead dogs that are all torn up.
They call the police, and typically, the cops tell them that unless they have evidence, there is nothing they can do. The cop tells them,"We couldn't even break up a dog fight without a warrant, and since they move them around so much, there is little chance of stopping the fighting."
The artists are at a loss as what to do. Jonathan recommends that they shoot up the dog fight, which is run by a local Mexican gang. The other artists think this is a bit much, at first, but Matt, the high school kid who they let stay there, is totally into the idea. The guy who they inherited the bar from, uncle Sal, has a shotgun.
One day Matt sees a gang banger grab a dog off the street, and attacks the gang banger. With the help of Jonathan, they get the dog back. Later that night, as they are painting in the gallery, which can be seen from the street, the gang retaliates. They drive by and shoot up the place, killing one of the artists. The cops don't catch the killers, since none of them saw the shooters.
This is what sets them off... Jonathan begins to relate to the dogs, sees it like innocents being placed in prison. Jonathan and matt kidnap one of the gang bankers and torture him into telling them when the next fight is over. The other artists keep asking Jonathan what he going to do when he is done? Jonathan shocks them all by slicing the guys throat. Chicago cops don't spend much time trying to find out who killed a gang banger, because they always think it is crime related. Their philosophy is basically, "Let them kill each other."
They then go to where the dog fight is, and shoot it up. I am not quite sure exactly who will die in this. The gang bangers will be heavily armed, and definatly fight back hard.
That's it. To a degree. The next step, like I said, is to break everything down into chapters, so I know exactly what prose is needed.
I guess I should begin at the beggining, right?
What follows is a brainstorming session trying to come up with ideas for chapters.
1) a customer comes in the gallery, and one of the artists, Michael, steers her away from his paintings, trying to get her to buy someone else's because he misses them too much when they are sold. During this, Jonathan comes in. He is awed to see the place that he has been reading about while in prison, and meeting the artists. He orders a drink in the bar, then takes a look at the paintings.
2) Jonathan meets Matt and the other artists, and bonds well with them by pulling out some primo bud. Their gallery almost always smells like weed and insence. Jonathan shows them slides of his work, which he keeps at his brothers house in Indiana. Then, to the amazement of all of them, he goes outside on the sidewalk and starts drawing people for five bucks a shebang. He quickly makes a hundred bucks, then walks in and gives ninety bucks to the boys and asks them if he can couch surf for a few days, telling them he'll give them half of what he makes for the privilage.
3) A guy gets beligerant at the bar, and Jonathan beats him up badly. They dump him in the alley, unconscious. The violence he displays shocks the others. Later, Jonathan explains himself, telling them all what he went through in prison, and how he now doesn't take any shit. He has taught himself martial arts, and always carries a knife strapped to his ankle.
4) Paul witnesses a black kid giving a dog to a gang banger, goes home and tells the others. Jonathan says that they probably stole the dog, a boxer, for fighting. This makes them all pissed, and since they know where this gang banger lives, they call the cops. This is when they find out that nothing is going to happen on thier end. Matt becomes obsessed with stopping the dog fighting, and begins following the gang banger, who hangs out selling crack on a corner a few blocks away.
5) Matt witnesses a dog being given to the gang banger and tries to stop the transaction. He is severly beaten. The dog is scared all to hell by the commotion, and his eyes Hurt matt more than his bleeding lips and black eyes.
6) When Matt goes home and the others see how beat up he is, they decide that they have to do something. Jonathan wants to get some automatic weapons and take out the gang banger. This is totally nixed by the others, who feel that they have no right to kill someone.
7) That night, the gang bangers do a drive by and shoot up the gallery, killing Jimmy, who is kind of the neil cassady of the bunch. After this, Jonathan and Matt and Paul and Mike start spying on the gang banger. When they finally see him snatch a dog, they gather their weapons and wait... Two days later, they see the gang banger going out with three dogs. One they recognize as a neighbors.
8) they follow the gang banger to an old warehouse on the south side. The place is filled with gang bangers. Guards at the door have Uzi's, and they are patting everyone down and holding thier weapons until after the fight. Jonathan and Mike take aim at them and shoot them both simultaneously. They take the Uzi's and go in, telling the dog fighters and betters that they are taking the dog and leaving, and that if they find out there is another dog fight, they are going to kill everyone there.
9) Some of the gang bangers still have weapons, the ones who belong to the gang which is holding the fight. They wait until the boys are distracted by the dogs to pull out thier pistols and start shooting. Jonathan fearlessly walks into bullets as he attacks them and kills them. Paul is alson shot, in the stomach, and Matt is hit in the leg. They get out of there,. Paul has them drive by the store, where he shoots up the boards on the windows, to provide an alibni for the shootings (cops are always called when someone goes to the hospital with a bullet wound).
10) They go home, leaving Johnathon's body behind. They drive way up north of town to a hospital, where Matt and Paul are treated, and also interviewed by the cops. They claim that there was another drive by at their store.
11) They go home and find that their dogs are missing. Matt goes to the gang bangers house and just shoots the shit out of the place, gets the dogs, and then goes back to the store. They fill a van up with their paintings and just drive away. They stole the money from the dog fight, too, which amounts to 14 grand or so; a nice bundle for them to start over. They drive off telling themselves that they are going to settle in some small town. Staying in the city is pretty much out of the question because the gang will not stop hunting them.
It is late.... I will need to add some subplots... maybe a woman or two. Hopefully, there will be about twice this many chapters by the end of the novel. My next step will be to write out each chapter in a non-prose like manner, meaning I will simply write the action, and then go back and try to make the words 'sing,' so to speak. An example of what I mean would be
Jonathan appears at the door. The customer is looking at a painting. Mike is talking to her, kind of slamming the paiting she is looking at and steering her toward one of Jimmy's painting. Matt is playing a video game in the back, which is seperated from the gallery only by a cloth hanging of some sort, a painting on cloth, basically. He can hear everything that is happening, and yells out out something like, "Mike hates selling his own paintings... don't listen to him." Paul comes up, and since he is the actual owner of the place, he tends to act more adult than the others. He goes to the customer and takes over for Mike, who Thew girback to his easel to work on a painting. Jonathan is silently twalking around looking at the paintings. From the back, they can all smell weed.