I just got to thinking that nothing stands still in life—especially in the writing department. I do sometimes think I feel much younger than I actually am but that doesn’t mean that the guy I see in the mirror hasn’t changed a lot over the years.
Now what got me to thinking of time in these terms? A close friend of mine suggested that I ought to write a blog on “updating” in the world of writing. What he was referring to was not only how we writers have swapped typewriters for computers but how the elements of plot have changed. In my last blog, I went into conflict, plot and choices in life (action). These are the things that not only have changed in our lives as people but in what and how we write.
One thing I have noticed that changes with some frequency is our use of buzz words and phrases. In the process, they get used to death. The latest hot buzz word I’ve noticed is ICONIC. It seems to be used by just about everybody these days even though I’m not quite clear as to what they’re trying to say by using it. Even so, it seems to be the “adjective de jour” in our lexicon of the moment.
Forty-five years ago I decided that I would write a novel. I was not much of a developed writer at the time but I decided I’d just go ahead and throw my hat in the ring and write “the great, all-American novel.” During that era, I was teaching in a high school. I hit upon a title: TEDDY BEARS GET TIRED. Since I taught school and have always been a firm believer in writing about that which you know, I used a high school as the background for all the action in my novel.
I did research on how to get started and dreamed up some conflict—mainly that my main character, an old maid type, didn’t like teaching school but couldn’t figure out what else to do. The book was autobiographical in that I really thought I’d love to be an actor or writer rather than teaching high school. All of a sudden one day I was involved in an accident that resulted in my knee being broken and my not being able to teach for several months. So, I went headlong into writing the novel.
Bravo, in about four months I finished my opus, which coincided with my return to the classroom. I sent my manuscript off and paid for some editorial work. I then sent my book to an agent in New York who represented it for a couple of years. Nothing happened except it got turned down everywhere. I forgot about TEDDY BEARS and then in a year or so found myself living in Paris where I stayed 10 years. In the process, I had switched over to writing plays and founded The Paris English Theatre.
Flash forward forty years or so. I am a professional writer of plays, screenplays and novels. I have actually been making my living off of writing for quite a few years now. In 2012, I unlocked a trunk and found TEDDY BEARS GET TIRED interred there. I read my novel and it could just as easily have been written during the Civil War instead of the late 1960s. Things had changed that much. We had cell phones, computers, the internet, email, texting, Facebook, Google and all sorts of social liberation. The only thing that hadn’t changed was that school teaching was still no swinging profession for a lot of people.
I don’t know what possessed me but I decided to re-write TEDDY BEARS GET TIRED and bring it up to date. Little did I realize all of the new gadgetry that had come about in our lives in those forty something years. Cell phones and email alone had turned our lives completely inside out
I dug in and turned the entire plot of TEDDY BEARS GET TIRED around from the trials and tribulations of a high school teacher to that of a high school teacher caught up in a the crosshairs of a serial killer. I turned it into an Agatha Christy type murder mystery and re-named it TEDDY BEAR MURDERS. However, things like cell phones, the internet, computers and the like had to be worked into the rewrite to bring it up to date and make the plot work on a contemporary basis.
As far as that goes, in a recent production of my play HOTEL VIRGINIA (written in 1969), one of the actors remarked that the entire plot of this play could be done in if cell phones had been in use at the time it was written. So, it’s not only that it’s easier to use word processing than a typewriter, the basis of our plots themselves have changed over the years.
The new novel was published in late 2012 and enjoyed great popularity—enough in fact, that a sequel is in the works entitled MURDER IMPOSSIBLE. The new novel is so much easier to write than the original novel because of so many modern innovations. I wrote the first novel on a regular typewriter and its updated version via Microsoft. The difference is daylight and dark. This served to show me how much life has changed for the average person since the sixties—especially for writers. I thank my friend for pointing all this out to me and providing the incentive for this blog.
Perhaps now I can apply two new buzz expressions to my present day writing: state of the art and cutting edge.