Did you enjoy First Love, First Time? Would you like to see the story continue at a later time? It could, but that depends on you as much as it does on me as I’m not really sure where to go next and those young men in the image above keep pointing me in different directions 😀
Writing is not the easiest thing in the world. You have to have ideas for a story and then be able to flesh them out with compelling characters and believable story lines. But ideas don’t come in endless supply for any author.
I had some ideas for a story about someone’s first love and first time and I shared them with you in Part I. But what comes next for the characters in the story?
Like I said, I’m not really sure.
From the beginning, I always envisioned First Love, First Time as an experimental story. What I did in the story is what most writers do. I gave you a main character, Lane Bailey, two lead secondary characters, Paul Miller and Bruce Donnelly, and quite a few other characters who were much less well developed.
I set the story in 1973 and wrote the first ten chapters. But if the story was going to continue, I knew I’d need help figuring out where it should go.
So if you’re interested in seeing the story continue, what do you think?
Should we follow Lane to Washington, D.C., and see what happens there? Stay in Cambridge and see how Paul’s senior year unfolds? Or shift the focus to the Berkshires and see what happens to Bruce? We could do any or all of those things if we want or we could do other things entirely.
For example, we could move the story back in time to see how Anderson became the homophobe we’ve seen in Part I. Could it be there’s a family connection to A. Lawrence Lowell? Or was he molested as a boy by a father, brother or friend?
Lots of things are possible for any of the characters, but I don’t think I would react well to a suggestion that Anderson was molested by an alien from another planet. That might make for an interesting story, but it’s not the kind of story I write 😀
Or we could move forward and see what happens to other characters like Mark Simmons or Bill Emerson, who we barely got to meet in Chapter 2. Or what about Allen Reeves, Paul’s fellow graduate student, who we found out was arrested for soliciting a male prostitute in Chapter 4?
How did that happen? How did it affect his life? We don’t know very much about Allen, but not knowing a lot provides a much broader canvas to paint on.
If you go back and read the story again, you’ll find many cases where a story line seemingly relevant to the story in a modest way is allowed to fade off. For example, Lane goes for a walk in the woods in Chapter 7 and ends up at Kemp Park where he has a brief conversation with a young boy.
Do you ever wonder what happened to that boy? I do.
Later still, at the rock off the trail behind the lake, he has a conversation with another boy, but one that is never developed or connected in any way to the larger story. What was that all about?
The point is I put these things there in large part as potential story lines for you as readers to develop if you wanted to, not because they were critical to the story itself.
As I said, Lane doesn’t have to remain the main character in the future. But if that’s what you prefer, the possibilities are basically endless for Lane.
We learned in Chapter 4 that his new job in Washington will involve writing a chapter on impeachment for a book. He’s not happy about that because impeachment is a tool rarely used in American history. But it is 1973 after all and from where we sit today we know Richard Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment in 1974.
If you do a little research, you’ll find out that the first impeachment resolution against Nixon was introduced in July, 1973, by Congressman Robert Drinan of Massachusetts; not for anything having to do with Watergate, though, but for Nixon’s actions in southeast Asia, particularly his bombing campaign against Cambodia.
That doesn’t mean you have to introduce a real character like Father Drinan into the story. You could, I suppose, but you could also introduce a fictional member of Congress, which might give you more flexibility in sketching out a story line.
A story line could be as simple as having Lane somehow being dragged into the Nixon impeachment in some way. The fun part would be figuring out how and what happened once he was and how that affected his social life, if at all.
Of course we also know from Chapter 9 that Lane was planning to go back to North Adams at the end of the summer. Did he do so; and if he did, did something happen while he was there to make him change his mind about moving to Washington?
Did he and Bruce end up together after all? And what happened after they did if that’s the case?
Keep in mind I’m not asking you to write the next part (although you’re welcome to do that if you’re especially ambitious and you’ll certainly be credited for it if you do). What I’m asking is that you share your ideas and suggestions with me for how to move the story forward.
You can tell me in 50 words (probably much too short to be honest about it) or 500 words or 5000 for that matter. From my perspective, the more detail the better. But it’s up to you to decide how much you want to flesh out your ideas and suggestions.
Just so you know, however, I’m willing to work with you to do that if need be.
Indeed, the story doesn’t have to move forward in a single story line. We could have several different versions of how the story continues depending on how many of you want to participate in the effort and how much time and energy you’re willing to invest.
Be aware it won’t be easy, however. Writing never is.
Look, this may not be the best idea I ever had and I know it’s not easy. It’s something you need to think about and I’m certainly not in any rush. Mostly what I am looking for right now is whether you think this is a good idea and an expression of interest in pursuing it if you are.
If you have questions feel free to comment on this post or to e-mail me directly. I’ll do my best to respond.
In the meantime, here are some other stream of consciousness suggestions as you think about whether and to what extent you want to participate in this experiment.
1. Do feel free to choose any of the characters as a vehicle for continuing the story. If none of the characters work for you, use one of them to introduce a character who does.
2. Do feel free to move the story either backward or forward in time. At the same time, be aware of what’s happening if you do. Lyndon Johnson was President in 1968, not George W. Bush (although Bush was President from 2001 to 2009 if you want him to be a part of the story). AIDS became a problem in the 1980s, not 1975. Don’t ask, don’t tell was a 1990s (and later) issue, not a 1980s issue.
3. Do feel free to give your characters sex lives, but check with me before getting too heavily invested in certain sexual practices as part of a character or storyline. I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to sex, but I would find it difficult to write about a character who enjoyed inflicting real pain on others without their consent; or at least holding them up as role models.
4. Don’t situate characters in locales I’m not familiar with unless you’re willing to spend a LOT of time helping me understand that locale. I know New England and Washington pretty well. I’m not familiar at all with what Moscow looked like in 1986. In short, the further away we get from locales I’m familiar with, the less comfortable I’ll be and the more work you’ll be expected to do.
5. Don’t feel compelled to provide a happy ending, but perhaps try to leave open the possibility of happiness.
For a fairly complete list of the story characters in Part I of First Love, First Time, you can check out this page to help refresh your memory. For some tips on writing that may or may not be useful, you can check out this one as well.
That’s it for the moment except to say this experiment was always intended to be fun. I’m not sure anyone will be interested in pursuing this further. If you are, let’s try to keep it fun. If an idea or suggestion doesn’t work for me, don’t feel offended. I won’t feel offended if no one is interested in seeing the story continue.
Still, it is indeed true that mighty oaks from little acorns grow; or, to put it another way, nothing ventured, nothing gained 😀
Or we can bag it completely if the interest and the ideas just aren’t there for now. The story is fine as it is. The point is, unless we can do it well, it doesn’t make sense to try to continue the story.
And be sure to come back next Monday when I’ll have more to say about my plans for the immediate future.