W. P. Johnson

From Shit to… something that isn’t Shit.

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Well… it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a goddamn thing. What the hell is this for anyway? I think what’s kept me from adding anything is the fact that I feel like every post has to have an essay like quality to it, demanding rewrites, quotes, a beginning, middle, and an end. Recently I’ve been thinking that maybe I should just keep this blog more informal for the sake of writing more.

So get ready for some typos, ramblings, and the occasional nugget of profound something or other.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m working on a novel.

My first attempts at a novel started in high school, a real failed attempt at mimicking writers like Vonnegut, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahniuk. In other words, all the writers people read when they don’t really like to read. Glossing over some of it now, there are moments of brilliance buried within my poor prose, misguided youthful angst and Nietzsche-esque philosophy only a teenager would find exciting and new. What’s that old saying? If you’re not a rebel by 20 you’ve got no heart, but if you’re not establishment by 30 you’ve got no brains (I think that may be a Swimming With Sharks reference). I think the same applies to philosophy and literature. So much of what seemed interesting then was nothing more than watered down Hollywood Existentialism, the kind of philosophy I projected through the simplest of gestures, that of carrying around a copy of Will To Power, shaving my head, and smoking clove cigarettes.

Gross right? It was, as a friend of mine told me recently, really “touch and go” there for awhile.

But it was all for not. The title of my first novel “Close Your Eyes” still has a ring to it that resonates within me and occasionally glossing over it, I find myself smiling at some of the passages… or maybe I’m just relieved to see how much I’ve improved.

The opening lines, typos and all:

All in all the job itself is basically eight hours of non-stop movement. Sometimes ten. Sometimes twelve. There are times when I think to myself “there’s a place just like this in hell”.

Holidays take on a whole new meaning when your involved with food production.. Christmas is sometimes thought as a universal holiday that everyone enjoys. Christmas Eve and I’m loading packages at 5:00 in the morning after working through 10 degree weather. I never did get around to learning how to drive.

OK, EW. That sucked. That sucked A LOT. I mean, who gives a flying fuck to continue another page of that dog shit? No wonder I couldn’t get anyone to read any of my work back then.

But… practice makes perfect right?

Another “for those of you who didn’t know” things- I started a second novel a couple years ago entitled “Exile From Ghenna”, a title that I still can’t decide is brilliant or just pompous and wordy. Here are the opening lines:

It wasn’t safe to go home. I stayed with Stephanie. No one knew about her. With her I was safe. I didn’t kiss and tell.

She undressed me. I was too tired to move. It had been two weeks of hospital food and the slow leak of a morphine drip. Every night I had to bribe an officer to keep me alive. Half before sleep, the rest after. The Arcadia Police Department was full of dirty cops.

Slug holes closed up under the kiss of stitches. Three shots to the shoulder. Stephanie was glad to have me around. I didn’t know what to do with myself.

Ok. Not too bad. Not great. But way better than that horseshit I was passing off as god given brilliance in my first attempt (I was obviously reading a lot of crime noir during the “Exile” writings).

“Exile…” failed, fyi. Why? I can’t say. Maybe it was bad timing, or maybe there just wasn’t any truth in what I was writing. After all, writers lie in order to tell some other kind of truth. But what did I really have to say at twenty-six? And what business did I have writing about cops?

About a year ago I took part in a writers workshop with Craig Clevenger, author of Contortionist Handbook and Dermaphoria (buy the man’s books people, I think he’s still struggling). For years I always wrote in first person without really knowing why. So, for a change of pace, I started a whole new story in third person, a story about vampires and a voyeuristic endeavor I dubbed The Human Shipyard where people could vicariously experience the lives of others through visual aids, audio, and physical sensation. Initially intended as a short story, “V” (the temporary title) blew up in to a unmanageable fifty pages with no clear end in sight. Here are the opening lines to “V”:

Trevor paces, coked up, spitting into his cell phone. Dressed in leather, his long neck sprouting a cue ball head, he circles Denis the way an excited vulture claws the ground for a buried animal. Denis shakes the thought and tries to bleed a day from three hours of sleep while standing outside a warehouse in Port Richmond, waiting for Alex to finish his binaural work on Candy, the newest port for in the voyeuristic Human Shipyard.

Something felt different. While it may seem “eh” you to, putting down these lines was exciting. And what more, it had gotten responses from other workshop members, other writers. In a phone conference with Clevenger himself he said, to quote, that it made him think of a, “William Gibson vampire story”, a compliment I still remind myself of when I’m feeling blue and up against a wall. During the call he advised me to give it a go- research the story and make it in to a novel.

So… here I am today. Almost a year later and I’m nearly half way through a first draft. For months and months I was telling people that I was researching a novel, then starting it, then only a “third” of the way through. Funny how people think a book is written so quickly, like its a weekend retreat, you feel like a joke, you feel like every other jerk off that says he/she is working on a book.

But then you find yourself at the halfway point. You’re halfway through finishing a draft. And this is really happening. It’s not just something you “talk about”.

The vampires are gone, as well as the present tense, and the narrative has been modeled after one of the character’s speech patterns:

Chapter One

His Eyes

The problem was, he had dissected her cat.

Though they never spoke on the matter, not to outsiders at least. And as horrific and to blame as he was, he could never believe himself responsible and claimed that the act was not of his own accord. Rather it was something of a nostalgia for a time that belonged to another, committed with as much joy as one would find submitting to a vestigial instinct.

“It was an urge,” he shifted, looking up from the couch to clarify, “but not mine. I felt like I was possessed.” He paused, thinking of an example. “Sometimes an amputee will reach to touch a limb that isn’t there.”

My fingers rested from typing within the void of his voice. I turned towards him, searching through that silence.

“Meaning what exactly?”

“Imagine trying to touch a limb you never had in the first place.” He shrugged, “She called me a monster but I couldn’t remember what I had done. It felt like waking up from a nightmare.”

Honestly? Not too shabby.



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