Sunday, March 16, 2008

Adam Blue Project Update: Second Draft Progress and Strategy

As many of you know, I've been diddling around with the second draft of Adam Blue for a while. Due to a rampant case of laziness I haven't really accomplished much in the way of making my wildest dreams come true. However, there has been some progress. I've been applying a bit of design savvy gleaned from working on Rogue Dao Studios' Purgatorio to keep track of the general structure of the book. For example, I now have, for the sake of consistency and reference, a chapter tracker.

Before I start working on a chapter, I review the material I produced in Baghdad, decide which elements to add, and then write a short blurb of the projected contents of each chapter. So, the first two chapters look something like this in my notes...

Day 1: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos
Consisting of Adam Blue’s Brain Goes to Baghdad and additional text, this chapter introduces Adam, Cowboy, the Moon and Alcott. Takes place at the Baghdad International Airport.

Day 2: Adam Blue and the Arrival
Consisting of all new text, this chapter introduces Mack. It takes place on the Chinook in the skies of Baghdad and in the formation area by the landing zone. Mack makes a speech to the Brigade.

I've also begun numbering the chapters by the day on which they occur in the story instead of simply numbering them sequentially. This helps to explain the irregularity of activities occurring within the story. When the reader moves from Day 2 to Day 8 they don't expect the new chapter to pick up exactly where the previous one left off. This is consistent with the vignette style chapters I wrote in Iraq, and should help alleviate some reader confusion regarding the events of the story.

I'm working on interjecting plot characters into earlier chapters, for example in the original draft Sergeant Alcott wasn't introduced until the sixth chapter, and Colonel Mack only gets mentioned once in the sixth chapter. Now I've introduced Alcott briefly in the first chapter, and given Mack an immediate role in the second chapter. In the first draft I created characters as needed to fill certain archetypes and roles in specific chapters, and in some cases these characters, like Peter Potter, ended up being fairly prominent in the following chapters. So, I'm trying to structure the book a bit less haphazardly. After all, with all the oddness of the content, I feel I owe it to the reader to at least structure the book sensibly.

Here's a revised second draft version of my first chapter. This chapter was originally published on my MySpace blog somewhere around the middle of my first draft. I had written this one in a notebook and took my time getting around to typing it up. So in the original online publication I had started with Adam Blue and the Sea Monsters which made a decent opening chapter in terms of establishing Adam's character, but did a poor job of opening the plot of the story. Going back with a mind for revision, I placed my original first chapter Adam Blue's Brain Goes to Baghdad at its rightful place, added some new text (including a stronger opening line), and injected additional plot characters and concepts. Thus, I ended up with my new opening chapter: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos, let me know what you think...

Day 1: Adam Blue and the Eyes of the Cosmos

The universe flung itself to and fro, dramatically slinging its bits and pieces against each other. No one really cared enough to notice. The petty rustling of mankind had drawn the eyes of the cosmos to a splintered desert nation. The icy fingers of death were snapping a catchy tune and humanity was stomping and clapping in time with every ounce of enthusiasm it could muster.

The airstrip used by the Coalition Forces in Baghdad sprawled into the desolate quiet of the Iraqi night. Private Adam Blue stood airsick and stupid in the rough gravel pit on the east side of the tarmac. The far off lights of the Baghdad International Airport hung dully in the mottled black air like tallow candles creeping beneath the whispers of the full orange moon.

“Adam, take out your earplugs.” The moon mouthed.

He tugged at the plugs and the silence was vanquished by a brilliant burst of sound and experience. Adam placed the tiny yellow buds into an empty grenade pouch. The shuddering of black hawk helicopters washed over him; their mighty rotor blades beat angrily against the dome of the sky. Suddenly Adam could hear everything: voices, chewing gum popping, an enthusiastic breeze whistling through the slick barrels of machine guns, and he could hear the faint crackling of distant bamboo chutes. Somewhere far away, there were pandas chewing contentedly as they conspired not to fuck. Elsewhere, there were a billion Chinese laughing at a dispirited American zookeeper who had grown weary of the lack of romance in his professional life.

Adam's brain was a nest of glistening madness, a lump of tissue riddled with pulsating veins and some fairly cockamamie ideas about the universe. Amongst them, the idea that things which were, were in fact not, and things that were in fact not, were. Over the years he’d learned to hide the fact that he was, for all intents and purposes, completely bat-shit insane.

Cowboy loomed above Adam. The old salt tipped back a shot of whiskey and wiped his whiskers clean. He tilted eastward on his dusty leather boots and let out a long hoot.

“Would you listen to them? Oooeee!” He sang in his western drawl.

“Pandas! Them bastards think they’re so clever! They’re hidin’ their evil ways behind fuzzy faces. Like we’re gonna forget what they are.” His crooning voice halted, and his lips wrapped into a sneer.

“Commie bastards.” He snarled. Cowboy was stuck in the 50’s. In his opinion, pandas represented everything wrong with Sino-American relations.

Adam's brain was a soggy clump of crazy snapping off millions of electrical impulses at the speed of light. 182,282 miles per second. Incidentally, that was also the speed at which teeth sparkled. Adam's brain couldn't slow down, it twitched and tangled with every breath, it spun strong circles through loopholes in outer-space when stimulated. Cowboy stumbled through those hoops and curlicues. His breath wreaked of booze, his tongue stumbled over slurred advice. His grizzled face was all pins and needles and his chin quivered with lack of sensation; he was an alcoholic. No one knew, but Adam and the moon.

“Hey, darlin’.” Cowboy called out, looking affectionately upon the blushing pock-marked face of the moon. He tipped his hat backward, his feet creeping slowly out from underneath him until he was forced to grab the massive seal of his belt buckle for balance. He hiked his dungarees up, pulling himself forward and grinning sloppily.

The moon hid her abashment behind a veil of slow moving clouds. She had self-esteem issues, a result of her ruddy complexion and yo-yoing weight.

“Hello.” She peeped, hidden behind the gauze of condensed air moisture. Still, the embarrassed glow of her face hedged the fringes of the clouds, painting them a timid custard haze.

The pair fell into an awkward silence, as they always did when words failed between them. Cowboy quickly changed course, turning towards Adam.

“You ready for this, buckaroo?” He asked.

“I don’t think so.” Adam replied.

“Well, you just do your best and things’ll fall into place. Usually do.” Cowboy said, the whiskey in his blood lending backbone to his air of rugged confidence.

“You’re a good kid. Ain’t nothin’ bad gonna happen to you.” He said, nodding with a wobbly reassurance.

“I hope not.” Adam said. He couldn’t help but feel that the matter of his life and death was completely out of his hands. That sort of thing was decided by men far away, men with far more stake in what Adam was doing than Adam himself.

“Blue!” A voice belonging to Sergeant First Class Ulysseus S. Alcott bellowed. “Pick it up! We’re leaving!”

Adam scrambled to gather his gear. His unit wouldn’t be going anywhere for hours, and everyone knew it. Everyone that is, except Sergeant Alcott, whose complete faith in the Army had filled him with the delusion that somewhere there was someone who knew what the hell was going on. There wasn’t.


kjesterm said...

I honestly forgot how much I actually love Blue and Cowboy and all the rest. Thanks for reminding me! Hurry the fuck up and publish for me, dammit!

Ryan Placchetti said...

Well, I'm working on it. I'm not even a full sixth of the way through the existing material.

Gene said...

this version is excellent. i can't believe i read this for free.

i'm turning in some crappy works of fiction as i type this out!

hit that shit, publish before you graduate...and the the university foot the bill!