Monday 17 November 2008

The name of the game

“I hope I don't offend anyone by this. If you've got a weak stomach (or little time), please don't read page 3 in the pdf. You can replace that entire page with the sentence 'While Doug is at the vet with Reg, Dinah tries to seduce me.'”

That's how I handed in my latest assignment. I couldn't leave out the shocking passage, it's essential to the narrative, yet I was too embarrassed to expect my classmates and teachers to read it. I actually hoped they wouldn't. I don't wish to disturb my readers like this. They don't deserve it. Yet the filthy part is essential to my story. It is who Dinah and Adam are. It is what happens to them. It's the name of the game.

Sunday morning, 2AM, I wrote in my diary: “I'm a writer now. I've always been. I know that. But I'm truly a writer now. I've written something fantastic today. Well, yesterday, technically. Started it on Friday, perfected it today. Didn't know I had it in me, but it's brilliant. It's called 'In name only'.” Obviously, my diary has to be taken with a grain of salt, but what I'm trying to show is that I myself was happily surprised by the result. Even though it's hideous.

Whenever I tell someone about this story, I still feel the need to explain how it originated. For my Elements of Fiction class, I had to write a story with the sentence 'In order to avoid killing Reg, Doug bought three orange cushions.' The next day, someone told me the gross bit, and I was so shocked that I assumed it would make a good story. (“No, I didn't make it up myself, and no, it didn't happen to me. Really, it has nothing to do with me!”) Not thinking about my audience I set to work and wrote the first draft.
When it was done I first realised I didn't want to send this to my classmates. I realised it would embarrass them, shock them, and it would cause a stymie during the lecture when they had to criticise the rest, which wasn't that good yet either.
Saturday evening I was planning to have dinner with my classmates in Covent Garden. Now, I've been ill over the weekend, and I still wasn't feeling too well yet when I got to Uxbridge Station. When I was not allowed in due to a burning car at the entrance, I took this as a sign that I should cancel and go back home. On my way back I realised what was wrong with the story. Adam was too empty, too blank a point of view, and his actions came out of the blue. He needed to be dressed up with details. And those details happened to be in the second part of the story already: the vinyls and the smashed telly.
As soon as I got home I set to work again and the story grew on me. Or rather, the people in it. The story remained the same, but the people that were living it did a much better job. And as it turned out, the story gained in depth as well.
Now it's not just a shocking story any more, it's a tale of loyalty. Adam not being loyal to Doug and Dinah; Dinah cheating on Doug; Don Corleone – personification of omerta and loyalty – warning them; Doug trusting Adam and being loyal to everyone, including Reg; Barry abandoning Reg but returning when she needs him most.
It's a story of persistence. Though this virtue is highly appreciated in the Mafia, Adam doesn't bring anything to an end: he hasn't brought his vinyls to his room, doesn't have his way with Dinah, doesn't reach the finish of his Godfather-marathon...
It's a story of leaving home, of naming, of gender and emotional neglect.
And finally, it's a story of shame. Dinah, who's not ashamed of her physical state at first, but the more so later on. Adam, who's ashamed to admit he actually has betrayed his friend. And me, too ashamed by my narrative to let it speak for itself.

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