The Ben & Marina story has the unofficial title of Reunion From Hell. That “working title” really has nothing to do with the story. Or at least not anymore.
The original premise was completely different than what it is now. It was something I started sometime around 2005. It was also supposed to be two separate stories. The first was to take place on a movie set, chronicling the actors and their relationships while they worked on this movie that was emotionally taxing in a lot of ways. The second was the story portrayed in the movie. I had high aspirations for those projects. And then, as often happens with these things, I stopped working on all of it.
When I picked it up again…sometime later…I decided to overhaul the entire thing. I abandoned the movie set plan and focused on the “script” so-to-speak. It involved a group of life-long friends from a small town that had a major falling out (over something incredibly stupid) just before they all left for college. It’s several years later and mutual friends from high school are getting married. Everyone returns to their hometown and the former friends are all together in the same place at the same time for the first time since their group broke up. It involves a lot of petty drama and no resolution until tragedy strikes and somebody’s brother is in a massive car wreck (and eventually dies) that stops everyone cold. When reality bites them in the ass, they acknowledge how stupid they’ve been acting, and while they’re not the absolute best of friends again, they return to civility at least by the time they all leave town again.
My biggest problem with that plot line was the “fight” that broke them up to begin with. No matter how I wrote it, I could not make it believable that it would take them ten years (give or take) to even be willing to see to each other again. Also, the drama and tragedy surrounding the car accident was not the least bit convincing. And the cast of characters just did not gel, I could not figure them out to save my life. I reworked that cast list countless times until the whole project got shoved back into the arsenal again.
Every time I’d find myself struggling to write, I’d sit and stare at the “reunion” project and contemplate how to make it work. I dropped the “fight” scenario, kept the car accident of a friend, and shifted the wedding from friends to the main character’s sister. And the great conflict eventually turned into one between just two people—the main character and the boy next door. It took a while to get the characters cast properly, I fought with that for a long time. Eventually things started to click. I had characters I liked, that fit just right, and then I sat and stared at a pile of scenes I had written, and decided the car accident scenario wasn’t going to work. I knew I couldn’t do it justice. I knew I wouldn’t be able to write convincing, genuine emotion associated with that whole premise. But I needed something to go horribly wrong within the time frame I was working with. There might not have been a “reunion” to speak of anymore but there was still “hell” to contend with. And it needed to be more than the perpetual, pointless drama between Marina and Ben—because that would be too teenage high school sitcom even for me. After a lot of deliberation I managed to figure out what the great “crisis” would be. I might still struggle with writing genuine, convincing emotion surrounding it, but I’m pulling from a certain level of personal experience that I didn’t have to work with, with the car accident route.
With pieces falling into place, my biggest hurdle now (other than writing narrative, which is a whole other tale of woe) with this project is the conflict between Marina and Ben. It has shifted drastically from where I started and it still needs significant adjusting. They grew up next door to each other. He’s her older brother’s best friend. She was the little sister he never had. He has been a perpetual pain in her ass for her entire life, and while he eventually grew up enough to stop endlessly tormenting her, she still finds him fekking obnoxious. But there is the (likely all too predictable) flip side of their relationship where they actually get along just fine, usually when no one else is around. They are highly dysfunctional and nobody can really figure out why—not even them.
I know what the issue is. I just haven’t figured out how to write it.
I have a pretty solid understanding of this relationship between them rolling around in my head. It just does not translate well to the page. Or at least, it hasn’t so far. Instead of the conflict being mostly 50/50 in the blame department, as it stands, there’s really nothing wrong with Ben and Marina is just a crabby bitch holding a grudge long past its expiration date.
In essence, Marina is me.
Ben has made every effort to make friends and she just keeps writing him off as the bane of her existence. Her perception is tainted by the animosity between them growing up, and even though he has proven time and time again that he’s a different person, she all but refuses to comply. Except, of course, in those rare moments when they act like friends—more often than not, when it’s just the two of them.
There are a number of other issues cropping up in this project, mostly surrounding the relationship between those two, and I’m going to have to spend some time figuring out where exactly these problems lie. I might have to trim down the character list in parts simply because some conversations tend to get way too confusing with so many people involved. There are also a few characters who just need some personality adjustments. Writing Marina’s brother Brody is an even bigger pain in the ass than trying to explain the dysfunction of Marina and Ben. He’s also really a bigger pain in the ass for Marina than Ben is, but I suppose that’s why Brody and Ben are best friends.
I’ve been struggling quite a bit lately with this project. My writing streak has dwindled down to little more than editing a few words here and there (and maybe several dozen commas and the misuse of lay/lie/laid). I think it’s time to sit down and read through everything I have written so far (keeping the editing as I go to a minimum) and see where it all stands. I have the habit of writing out of order so jumping around the timeline tends to muddle my memory (as if it’s not a big enough clusterfuck all on its own) as to what I’ve written, when, and where. Sometimes rereading things in proper order is just the refresher I need to get back on track.
So how long will it take me to read 122 pages?
Also, must resist urge to actually print what I have so far. It would be a huge waste of paper and ink and with its terribly disjointed construction, it can barely be called a story at this point. I’m sure Lopez would be ecstatic to get some real use, but his talents are probably best used on other print jobs. Like recipes for things that involve lots of sugar and butter.
Lopez is the printer, by the way.
What? You don’t name every inanimate object in your house? I think that makes you the weird one.