This coming Wednesday begins the April 2015 session of Camp NaNoWriMo, another installment of NaNoWriMo or the National Novel Writing Month. The idea of NaNoWriMo, if you weren’t already aware, is to write a novel in the course of a month or get a really decent start on one. Typically NaNoWriMo’s target word count is 50,000, but my cabin mate Nova and I are keeping it at a modest 30,000 words.
The whole cabin thing is a kind of a mystery to me. I’m not sure why they don’t just separate us into regions the way it is done in the official November session of NaNoWriMo, but I guess they have to differentiate between the two in some way. The nice thing about the camp sessions though it that you can chose your word count and aren’t hemmed into writing 50,000 words in a single month.
A couple of months ago I posted the beginning of a short novel entitled Just Say Maybe, the first part featuring Ashley Barnes who is a minor character in Twenty-Five at the Lip. As I mentioned in that blog entry Ashley originally had a much larger role in the original premise of Twenty-Five, but due to changes in the plot and ending I was forced to cut her out of much of the storyline, leaving her almost entirely as a background character. As an author this really hurt, but I see how it managed to work out better in the end having done the appropriate editing for the good of the story. This didn’t do much in the way of justice to Ashley though and I was forced to put her up on my mental shelf for usage later if something came about.
As it happened, something did come about. If you’re familiar with the Post Secret books you know that they are comprised of admissions or secrets that people send in anonymously to have posted for all the world to see. I had seen one several years ago that was sent in by a young man or woman apologizing to a gay uncle they had never met who died from the complications of AIDS. This uncle had been cast out of the family because of his sexuality and in the course of his separate life had contracted the disease and died of the complications.
This entry got me thinking about the idea of family secrets and how events that happen before our births are understood only in shadowy stories that our elders tell us about. This element plays heavily into Just Say Maybe as well as another novel I have coming out either later this year or early next year called Don’t Look Back in Anger.
In Just Say Maybe Ashley, the nurse from Union ER in Twenty-Five at the Lip, is a teenager who is beginning to expand her world through an increased sense of independence. She rides her bike to her grandmother’s house where she spends time looking over old photo albums that seem to have a number of blank places in them where there should have been pictures. She asks about them and is given seemingly lame excuses for their absence. It isn’t until her grandfather, suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease asks Ashley
“Are you one of Bobby’s friends?”
I looked at him and shook my head.
“No, Grandpa, I’m Ashley,” I said. “Don’t you know who I am?”
He blinked and screwed up his face. The name didn’t seem to ring a bell to him and he looked at me in that way that suggested he was struggling to remember who I was. He nodded regardless, not wanting to admit he didn’t recognize me.
“Who is Bobby?” I asked.
“Bobby is my son,” he replied quickly, as if we had been partaking in a good solid conversation. “Have you seen him? He’s about your age. His mother is going to have a fit if he isn’t home for dinner.”
This admission sends Ashley on an investigation delving into family secrets, coming across the shameful truth that had been hidden from Ashley and her sister their entire lives. What I plan to see develop is a story about the importance of family that is underscored in my other work. What I would like to see happen, as a result of this piece, is a breaking down of preconceived notions regarding male authors writing from a female first person point of view, as well as conservative authors writing about what is typically seen as a liberal topic.
I decided to take on the project in first person. It was something that I haven’t had a great deal of experience with and deviates from my normal work where I tend to write from the third person. I was surprised to find that there were several people who felt that my gender would somehow compromise the integrity of the story and even some who felt that as a male the cover images I had come up with as well as the title of the piece sent the wrong message about the context. One woman in particular suggested that I use my initial, J. Windale, to disguise the fact that I am a male. After a soul searching look at what I intend to accomplish with this piece I decided that enough women in history had been forced to use their initials to hide their gender in their writing and that it is grossly inappropriate to suggest that anyone else do the same.
For the sake of argument I will clarify that there are no sexual situations in Just Say Maybe. After bouncing this dilemma off several other writers I associate with I came to the determination that this rather unsettling issue suggests more about where some individuals mind set lays, rather than what my gender might suggest. I find it sad that this is the point our hyper-sexualized society has brought us to, but I hope that this piece might be interesting enough to tone some of that down as well as dispel some of the notions about who should or should not write about a topic. No topic should be considered off limits to anyone, and if we hope to continue enjoying the boundless applications of our Constitutional Rights we should not begin limiting anyone else’s.
It’s my hope that you, my readers, will follow my progress on the Camp NaNoWriMo site. You can check in on me at this address: ScottCarter1982