Time, the Seasons, and Planning

I have not had to think about how time moves in a story quite like I have in Laemmle High. The plot of the story is literally centered around a school calendar, with important plot elements falling on things like homecoming, prom, and winter breaks. More than that, Merton’s lycanthropy is based on a full moon cycle, and I see now why writers dropped that sort of thing. It’s clumsy and forces confrontations to happen on a schedule, which inevitably makes them feel less natural. All of this, combined with the setting, which is another time period (the time period has jumped around a little since the original conception, which explains a few anachronisms, though not all of them). So one day I decided to sit down and work out exactly when things happen, while also marking all the full moons so I have an idea of what state Merton will be in. It’s pretty easy to pull a quick calendar off timeanddate.com (an extremely useful website for any writer’s fact checking), and even easier to pop it into MSPaint and add the information I need. The result is something like this:

1959 calendar events

There are several things I have to keep in mind when plotting this story:

  1. The school year (and thus, the seasons changing)
  2. The full moon (which works out conveniently for me in many places)
  3. The central theme of the story, and how it ties into the kids moving into a new era
  4. The actual plot of the story (not yet revealed)

 

Especially in Merton’s chapter, which had a pretty strict timeline of when he goes into a coma, when he wakes up, when the first full moon is (the reveal), and then the second transformation (confrontation). This gives me a full month between first full moon and second, so I have to escalate conflict. I also have to think about when he has to be in school, and how it lines up with the other conflicts in the story.

That is to say, I don’t think I’ve had a single other story where I’ve had to keep track of the dates this meticulously. Where I mapped out a calendar. I have other school based stories such as Adventurer’s Academy which also rely somewhat on the semester, but I didn’t have a character who every two weeks went through a monumental physical change that also needed to be lined up with other tragedies. Stories like How Like Wolves (one day I’ll get around to editing that) seem to happen in the course of a few days or a few weeks. It’s a bit like a lot of action movies, where the pacing is focused on the action, and thus timelines and travel time doesn’t really have to be negotiated in the same way. Bruce Wayne needs to be in a secret prison outside of the U.S. to explain the backstory of the villain, but in the next scene needs to be inside Gotham fighting said villain. If done well, and the story is good enough, we forgive these little oversights by filling in gaps in our mind. Doesn’t work like that here.

And writing about how the seasons affect story is like writing about how water is wet. We all know that moody pieces are set in winter, when things are dead and the landscape is muted, and warm summer gives us a feeling of nostalgia and of endless escape. Spring is rebirth, fall is watching things fade away. And they all have different sides to them, but I have to keep in mind the story I am writing. Laemmle High is about the future, the things we want from it, the things we fear from it, and how we are changed over time. It’s a little about growing up and a little about not being allowed to grow up. So I know the climate of Whitby. I know by November it’s already snowing and by spring it will be raining, but how does that affect the story? What does it tell our characters? Betty, who isolates herself and feels constantly alone, spends a lot of time in the wintery landscape far away from other people. Johnny’s death happens in the fall because that is the plot, but a lot could be said about a young life fading away. The thunderstorm for his resurrection was just horror movie schlock. But it sets a tone. It tells the reader how to feel about the scene. The characters are miserable, the truth of their dead teammate an overcast on them, and when he returns it is with a lightning strike.

I think writers, including myself, could benefit a lot more for mapping out a timeline. How many weeks does this take place in? How many years? If traveling, how long should it take? What do the characters do in the interim? How does the plot advance even when the next scene has to wait two weeks to arrive? How do you move the days forward without getting repetitive, and without something monumental happening on every page? This set up allowed me to focus more on character relationships and see their growth. Marya and Betty, Johnny and Beverly, even Betty and Johnny, whose initial introduction was so short, we still have to see how the relationship is changed. And how it is not.

Which again, central theme.

I don’t think I’m good at this yet. I think this story forced me to understand what I was doing, which is the sort of thing that makes you a better writer. All of those questions are things I have asked myself. To be a better writer, I have to understand how this works. And I think I’m figuring it out.

Meanwhile, for a brief period I’ll be taking a break. I really need to get back to Deadlands, my old west horror serial I’ve taken a six month break from for lots of reasons. Part three of this story is not yet completed, which means I have to write and edit it before feeling comfortable posting it here. I’m heading full force into a project with friends called the Renegade Library, a pop up LGBT library in Houston, TX. I’m trying to get back to writing regularly and you’ll hopefully see more short stories and concept stuff while I work on these projects. If you’d like, you can buy me a cup of coffee or donate to our library by purchasing something off our Amazon wishlist. I will hopefully be back soon!

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II. Wolverines (Part 2)

The moon continues its climb over Laemmle High.

wolverines

I. Student Life
Part 1

Continue reading “II. Wolverines (Part 2)”

I. Student Life (Part 3)

Johnny gets another shot at his education, and something else comes to town.

Laemmle High

student-life

Student Life

Part 1
Part 2

In which Johnny’s education becomes a sticking point, and things get complicated.

Continue reading “I. Student Life (Part 3)”

I. Student Life (Part 1)

Our cast is introduced, and one character is promptly removed.

Laemmle High

student-life

I. Student Life

In which we are introduced to our cast of characters, the town of Whitby, and the strange things that reside within.

Continue reading “I. Student Life (Part 1)”

Laemmle High

It’s 1959, and things are about to get weird in Whitby.

A long, long time ago, I decided I wanted to try drawing a comic. I’m not a very good artist, but in high school it was a thing I was interested in purely because I love comics. One of the (many) concepts I came up with was supposed to a sort of serial. The original version of this involved a high school reporter who starts investigating after a classmate comes back from the dead. Each chapter would be her investigating a different supernatural happening. I decided a 1950s aesthetic purely because I wanted to mimic horror movies from that era. It was actually more scifi in the beginning, with one character originally intended to be an alien, and I ended up shifting some of that thanks to deriving more from the classic Universal monsters. I came back to the concept after some time and adjusted it to fit a novel format. I was in college at the time, working on other projects and my masters, and I ended up finishing Men and Monsters, a similar concept with similar influences, having a much easier time writing it.

I fumbled around with what I’d written for a while, worried it was too similar to other things, struggling with finishing the segment I was on, but I ultimately decided the concept was something I wanted to write. I was attached to the characters and the setting and decided the best way to motivate myself to finish it was to post it here. At least then, even if I do nothing with it, it’s out in the world, and I can see how this tiny concept I drafted out years and years ago has changed. So here is your introductory post to Laemmle High. Like the movies it derives its origins from, I give you the cast of characters and title card up front, before you enjoy the picture.

copy-of-laemmle-high

Laemmle High

Beverly Jones………………………………………………………..high school reporter, friend to the undead

Merton Dewitt.……………………………………………………………..nerd, photographer, alien enthusiast

Marya Zalesk.…….………………………………………………a stranger in a strange land, also a vampire

Betty Isen…….….….………..prom queen, science fair winner three years running, dating Johnny

Johnny Maxwell…………………………….…….quarterback, most popular kid at school, dating Betty

Shelley Rathbone…………………………………….….…….…..science fair runner up three years running

The small town of Whitby was a community built for scientists at the height of World War II, meant to house the smartest, brightest, and most extreme leaders in new sciences. Since the end of the war, the families have settled down and are now enjoying the town that was built for them, and the children of those scientists are growing up. Nothing in Whitby is what it seems, and several students are about to learn firsthand how strange it can be. Join us next week for the start of Laemmle High in…

Student Life