Meet the new book. Same as the old book. (But different.)
My 2010 National Novel Writing Month project was titled Layoff. Strangely enough, so is this year’s project.
In a previous post, I described Layoff as a “comedy crime novel, involving a man laid off from a job one too many times.” Last year, I gave it the subtitle, “Revenge of a Coward.” This year, the working subtitle is “Revenge of a Stumblebum.” That’s most likely going to change.
In re-registering for this year’s NaNo, I erased the slug line and the excerpt I posted last year. The existing six single-spaced handwritten pages that were coughed up in 2010 are being ignored. This project needs a new start, new characters, and a new attitude.
To give you an idea of what I cranked out last year, here’s an excerpt:
Billy’s first murder was nearly an unmitigated disaster and his last, if it hadn’t been for the balcony outside his victim’s office and the banner sign hanging off the balcony railing.
But that’s jumping ahead of the story a bit.
Billy Drummond worked as an internal communications specialist at a software company that specialized in point-of-sale and inventory software for flooring retailers. He spend his workdays in a five-by-five cubicle in the middle of Human Resources. His workspace was spare and undecorated save for a The Office calendar and a Dilbert figure that sate next to his computer monitor. The Dilbert figure was trapped in its own miniature cubicle, staring at its own miniature-sized flatpanel. Billy worked 8:00 to 5:00 every day (“more like 8:30 to 5:00” according to a co-worker who continually teased him about his habitual tardiness), Monday through Friday, fifty weeks a hear, not counting holidays, sick days, and the surgery for a slipped-disk this year.
The slipped-disk isn’t important to the story, so we’ll leave it for now. The tardiness, though, does play an integral part.
Please take this for what it is, crude first-draft drivel. Had I gone forward with this version, I would have tightened that shit up in a rewrite. As it is, I’m giving the main character a new vocation, a new name, and a new background. He’ll lose those office decorations (a calendar from the TV show The Office and a Dilbert toy are a little too on-the-nose, capice?) and he’ll lose his loser attitude, too. I think. I’m still working on his motivation and life-story.
In discussing this story with friends, there’s been some good response to it. I described a scene where the main character jumps off the balcony outside his first murder victim’s office, using a SALE banner as a rope to swing from the second floor to the parking lot. One friend said, “So he’s doing an Errol Flynn off the balcony.” Absolutely, he is, and I’m stealing that line, too. It’ll work with the character, because he’s a film buff. Another friend suggested that instead of going around murdering former bosses and other people who have wronged him, maybe the main character could instead bungle it every time he tries? I’m still noodling that suggestion — I had originally envisioned Layoff as a dark comedy, using gallows humor to help me laugh my way through the current tough economic times. Turning it into a lighter comedy-of-errors story is one way to take it, a la the Dortmunder books written by Donald Westlake, but I’m still not sure. At least I’ve got a few weeks to think about it.
One thing I do know: the book has to be clever and funny, maybe even inspring, or it’s just a spittle-flecked opus of adolescent wish-fulfillment, a sophomoric middle finger to the bottom-line-driven CEOs, banks, and Wall Street. That would be written more out of anger than the desire to tell a story, which would make for a lousy book.
And I definitely don’t want to write a lousy book.