Novel Re-Calibration Today

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I have no idea what I’m doing. Not only that, I have absolutely no one to talk to about what I’m doing. So, the learning curve has been brutal. Every so often, there’s a major re-calibration of the novel. Sometimes it’s existential and I get nervous that the whole thing is a fool’s errand. Then, there are days like today when I’m stoked.

The last 48 hours I’ve been weighing different character names over and over and over and over and over again. I think, finally, I’m just about where I need to be. Almost. Then, also today, it really hit home how important theme as well as cause and effect are. This definitely sometimes gives me the feeling that I’m running in circles and, yet, I also sensed a major improvement in the specifics of the story.

As long as I’m moving forward, I’m happy. The better my canon & scene summary are, the quicker I can actually write the next draft. It’s just what I’m seeing is how poorly thought out the original idea was. Also, my personal editor is growing more brutal in my mind every day that slows things down some.

But there is significant forward momentum.

Wish me luck.

Strangers In The Night

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

By pretty much every metric a “normal” person would use on me, I’m a delusional weirdo currently living one of the more rural corners of a purple fly over state. That’s my reality.

So, as I proceed, keep in mind that I am well aware that I am probably just imagining things. It could all just be me jumping to huge conclusions. I’m using pretty prosaic datapoints and then weaving something out of the ordinary from them.

Anyway, I’ve been contacting a few well-known women the last few days for various reasons connected — and not connected — to the novel I’m developing. Jodi Kantor of the NYT gave me a polite one-line sentence email indicating that I wasn’t worth her time. That’s fair. I am going to exact my revenge, however, by doing everything in my power to have a character who’s professional life is greatly inspired by hers fall in love with a proxy me. Take that, successful investigative journalist!

Then someone obviously using a burner account on Instagram contacted me out of the blue tonight. Given that 99.99999999% of the time anyone who contacts me out of the blue on Instagram is either a troll or absolutely, completely insane, I blocked the account without even thinking about it. No point in wasting my time by engaging the person, whomever they may be.

But the event lingered in my mind. I have an extremely over-active imagination and I started to muse that it might be someone famous who wanted to talk to me, but just not via their official account. The rest of this bit of the post is more about me weighing what famous woman thinks about when contacting someone like me than any notion that that is at all what was going on.

I guess if you were a famous woman intrigued by a weirdo like me and you wanted to contact me you would check out my Instagram and then maybe setup a burner account simply to chat for a moment? Why they wouldn’t be willing say hey with their real account eludes me. But I don’t think that’s what happened. It was probably just my usual insane people trying to bother me. Shrug.

Anyway, enough of that.

A Personal Challenge

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

It’s extremely amusing the paradox I find myself in. On one hand, I simply need the opportunity to gauge how well I’ve managed to reverse-engineer the life of modern women by, like, talking to a modern woman (I have no friends of any sort) and, yet, the very type of person who could help me out in that regard is the absolute least likely to help me in any way without getting some money as part of the event. And that’s before they do their due diligence and instantly see that to their eyes, I’m just another bonkers Internet weirdo. (Ugh.)

So, all I got is simply Twitter, YouTube and my own capacity for empathy. That’s it. There’s not a notable professional woman on the planet who will help me at all, for any reason, to produce better female character in the novel. Just by asking, I come off as a kook looking to flirt with them or something.

Shrug. This is why we can’t have nice things. And, really, the issue is more about things I can’t control at this point. I’m old. Didn’t go to a good enough university. I don’t live in NYC or LA. I have very strong political views that can unexpectedly not fit the media narrative you find smashed into your head on Twitter. As such, in a way, even if I end up writing the novel I hope to write, I’m pretty much just always going to be a more woke version of Ken Bone in the end.

Lulz. I guess.

The Struggle Is Real: Constructing A Complex, Believable Female Romantic Lead For My Novel

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

With the complaints of outspoken Hollywood feminists like Olivia Wilde and Jessica Chastain ringing in my mind, I find myself trying to construct a romantic partner for my Hero who is strong enough and complex enough that I feel she will be noticed by women who may read the novel.

I’m getting kind of desperate. I know what her name is and what she looks like. But figuring out her personality is proving to be really, really tough. In my desperation, I am turning to someone who has enough of a public footprint that I can use her as inspiration. (Who? Not tellin.) I only do this because, what else am I going to do? I know the woman’s musical tastes and her age, so that goes a long ways towards using her as the foundation of the character, at least in that side of her life.

One element of the character — her professionalism and career drive — is proving to be the hardest to construct because I would need to hang out with the woman who is inspiring that side of her and, well, I’m just a middle-aged loser in a fly over state. So, I’m going to have to some reverse engineering. For this side of her life, I’m really studying Jodi Kantor. She’s a little older than I need the character to be, however, so it’s not an exact fit. But I think if I look at the social media footprint of women like her on Twitter, then that will help a lot.

One thing that’s proving to be a real pain to figure out is, of all things, how my two romantic leads deal with Thanksgiving. Ugh. So difficult. But every problem is an opportunity in disguise.

My Novel Wants To Be A Movie

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m enjoying developing my novel a great deal. But there are times when I wince at how much a movie wants to pop out of it like an alien xenomorph. A lot of the scenes are very visual and require you know songs for them to make the most sense. And, yet, given that I can only use song titles for IP reasons, I have to pick songs whose titles sum up what the songs are about as well as their mood.

Most of these songs, of course, are so well known that even the most clueless reader has at least vaguely heard of them. One thing I know is I really have to explain why my heroine would listen to the music she listens to. The average young person today listens to a very specific type of music that a lot of older people such as myself simply have never heard.

Luckily, however, the novel is set in the immediate past AND I’ve managed to come up with a reasonable explanation for why my heroine would listen to the type of music I need her to listen to. But the issue of how people will know in real terms how a song I want in their mind would play in the context of the scene is something that eats away at me. It would be solved very easily if I was writing a screenplay. But I don’t want to do that right now. I want to write a novel. I just am a very music-oriented person and I’ve structured the entire novel from the ground up so that pop rock music that I know a lot about is a crucial aspect of its universe.

But anyway. I going to try to flesh out my scene summary as much as I can this weekend. I’m shooting for no later than sometime in January to start writing in earnest again. I have a lot of momentum and love the characters, plot, and universe. I just have to live up to my own pretty brutal expectations. Even then, I’m a lot better storyteller than writer.

Why I’ve Walked Out Of Some Recent Movies

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m of the opinion that a great modern story has to ignore any sort of overt political agenda and simply entertain the audience. Given how existentially political the novel I’m writing is, this causes me a lot of consternation. But my primary goal is write an adult tentpole story. Things blow up. Shit burns down. A little sex happens. And so on.

But let’s go through some movies I’ve seen recently and why I hated them.

Booksmart
I walked out of this movie just between the time Beanie Feldstein’s character started screeching about lesbian sexual actives and when I learned what the “hero’s journey” was going to be. I had only gone to see the movie because I felt shamed by a combination of Entertainment Tonight, E! Network and the center-Left Twitter echo chamber. I knew going into the movie that I was NOT the audience, but I went anyway so I would not feel bad. Turns out, I wasn’t, in fact, the audience. I wanted a modern-day Heathers. I got a woke movie that I felt insulted me on a basic, existential level. There were plenty of ways to express the same political agenda on the sly without insulting me and people like me. I felt the acting lacking in general. I also felt the movie was a bit too cute by half. And it seemed produced by identity politics bean counters who felt rather smug that the had managed to make the girl who would otherwise be hot, not be hot.

The Joker
On the other end of the political spectrum, I bounced pretty quick with this movie, too. I hated this movie. Loathed it. It just seemed too anti-woke. It was a pretty loud dog whistle for incels who feel like they’re so smart that no one else “gets” their jokes. Ugh. Just tell me a good story. Don’t produce a movie that has as the core of its marketing campaign the fear that some crazy incel is going to murder people because of the movie. I see The Joker as just as a bad as Booksmart. Why can’t I just get a well produced movie that may have an agenda, but is, like, actually good? I mean, Network, Deliverance, Taxi Driver, The Dear Hunter, all are very powerful movies with political messages that don’t overshadow basic things like plot and character.

Hustlers
This was probably one of the better movies I’ve seen recently and I still walked out of it about 2/3rds of the way through. When it dawned on me that J.Lo’s ass cheeks were simply a ruse to get my butt in a dark theatre and that there would be no positive male characters, I bounced. But the movie itself was very strong did a great job of telling its story. I didn’t see the whole movie, so maybe this is a dumb question, but, how come there wasn’t more lesbian action in the movie? It’s implied in a whisper, but this is 2019. I think audiences can handle the two main female characters having a dimly lit naked romp in bed.

Charlie’s Angels
This movie needed to be darker and have more sex in it. Since only old farts like me care about the franchise, I think Elizabeth Banks should have done a Buffy The Vampire Slayer and made her version of this otherwise campy movie far more adult. Put a lot more John Wick and Hustlers in it. Make it a gritty — if a bit campy — action packed movie with sex-positive portrayals of female sexual agency. This whole business of having an out-of-nowhere montage of young women running around with big smiles on their faces made no sense to me. It was a real, “What the what?” moment. If she’d done as I suggested, a lot of middle-aged couples would have really enjoyed the movie. It might not have been the hit everyone had hoped for, but it would not have been a flop. Needed far stronger actresses, however, to pull it off. Though I really did like Kristen Stewart.

Anyway, I am extremely brutal with movies I go to see and if I walk out of it, the producers shouldn’t take it too seriously or personally. I often have a drink before I go see a movie and I bounce because I just don’t feel like the movie has any more to give. Also, I sometimes have an ah-ha experience because of the movie and I leave because I’d rather be home developing my novel.

The Fall Of The First Republic

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

There comes a point when you have to finally admit that the Trump is not a cause, but a symptom of deep-seated, existential problems with the United States’ political system. As such, the moment Trump’s acquitted by the Senate, the Republic has effectively fallen.

At that point, it’s simply a matter of how bad things get and for how long. This is when you have to take a deep breath and realize that there’s a real risk that MAGA will rapidly mutate and go full Nazi very, very soon. If The Kooch or Kris Kobach becomes Trump’s Veep, not Pence, this is all but assured. All Republicans have to do is get Trump past Election Day 2020 and they’re set for a generation, if not more.

They can weaponize ICE camps, round up everyone they don’t like and start the American Killing Fields. I wish this was hyperbole, but, alas, it’s not. It’ll happen in fits and starts, but it will happen. Once Trump — or his successor — starts ranting about the need for a Constitutional Convention to “pass a balanced budget amendment,” then, well, American Carnage is here for good.

There are any number of really dark scenarios you could pace out at that point. The literal end of the world. Millions dead. A Thousand Year Trump that lasts at least until global climate change shakes things up enough that the regime buckles.

I wrote all that to lay out what I believe will, in fact, happen, over the course of the next few years. But there’s one major unknown unknown — Trump’s mental state. It’s rather dark and tragic that in the short term, the only way that the Republic stands is not because we all come to our senses, but because Trump loses his so quickly — and manages to bring Pence down with him in a very quick series of events — that President Pelosi serves as a caretaker president simply for there to be a free and fair election in 2020. But that is so completely unknown — he could simply be a puddle in 20202 and still re-election — that I would not bet on it as saving us.

But it is, at least, something to think about. I just hope ICE lets me finish the novel I’m writing before they drag me out of my bed in the middle of the night.

Constructing A Believable Heroine For This Novel Is A Real Challenge

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I did not go into this trying to write the novel this has become. I was trying to write a novel with a proxy-ME in the center of it. But gradually, I realized it was far more practical to make a young woman at the center of the story. But one of the major issues I’ve had to deal with is the appearance of my heroine.

The market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience, not so much. And the more I read about how the woke blue check liberals of, say, Vox, view story telling the more angry I get. It seems as though the smug liberals of Vox have completely come to see any sort of universal story as illegitimate. Or, to put it another way, a middle aged white man can’t tell the story of anyone but middle aged white men. Slay the patriarchy and all that.

I say this as someone who in the never ending hellscape of Twitter probably is a lot more liberal-progressive than the above paragraph might suggest. Also, I have to lower my expectations and be more frank with myself about how likely it is I can even sell this novel whenever that point in the process comes.

I have spent hours and hours tying to figure out what my heroine looks like and the specifics of her ethnic background. It’s crucial, at least to me, that I’m able to balance the needs of the marketplace with the expectations of the audience. It’s a lot of fun, but also a pretty tough challenge. Right now, writing this novel is like really hard job that I love.

I’m writing this for myself and to simply go through the process of writing a novel. That’s it. If anyone who doesn’t know me reads it and likes it, then that would be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Or, put another way, you write your first novel for yourself. I can’t help how old I am. I know that would be a part of the story if it became any sort of success. And, really, the entire point of this novel is having some sort of outlet for my rage against MAGA. The plot is really just an excuse to run around an allegory about the Trump Era.

Hopefully, the story is entertaining enough just on its surface that even if people are hate-reading it, they will enjoy it.

YouTube Has A Real ‘Red Pill’ Video Problem

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

One of the biggest threats to the Republic outside of fucking MAGA is its ideological nasty little brother the “Red Pill” video that I keep getting bombarded with on YouTube. I guess some of the research I’m doing for the novel I’m developing makes YouTube think I’m a would-be incel-altRight-MAGA friendly or something. Fuck that.

I hate all that bullshit and I hate that I keep seeing these videos by Scott Adams acolytes that vaguely and barely hide their racism and misogyny in the guise of telling me the “truth” about the things the evil main stream media is trying to hide from me because of the influence of SJWs and “woke” “cancel culture.”

Ugh.

I have some very, very strong political views. A lot of my political views probably would not fair well in the eyes of “woke” blue check liberals on Twitter. But my hatred for MAGA is so absolute that I’m willing to endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune from the Left simply for the sake of having someone to help me destroy MAGA as a political and social movement.

It’s somewhat amusing how passionate these Red Pill videos are about how Kathleen Kennedy is the George Soros of Hollywood out to crush Baby Yoda or whatever other fuckwit theory.

I’m not a huge fan of Ms. Kennedy, but, come on guys. Your misogyny is showing.

Alien’s ‘Ripley,’ & The Struggle To Tell A Universal Story In The Age Of Trump

Shelton Bumgarner

by Shelton Bumgarner
@bumgarls

I’m trying to distract myself so I can come up with a different take on specifics of the novel I’m developing, so I’m writing about whatever pops into my mind to that end.

So, Ripley. Ripley was originally written for a man. It’s a testament to how great an actress Sigourney Weaver is that her interpretation of that character is such a universally loved icon. I keep thinking of Ripley as a character build my heroine. I want a strong heroine that women like because she’s strong and complex and men like because she’s hot and they feel she would kick their ass if they crossed her.

Having said that, the issue of my heroine’s appearance has been the subject of much, much, much, much internal debate and struggle on my part. The issue is the market wants her to be a sexxy slutty assassin, while the audience — especially women — wants something far more complex. Things get even more complex when you factor in that while many vocal feminist actresses in Hollywood want strong, complex heroines, they at the same time seem to have very strict and narrow demands about what that means. The character can’t be too hot. She has to want to slay the patriarchy. She can not fit any trope that has ever been articulated by anyone at any point in the past. And, really, I sometimes think they don’t even want a man — especially a middle-aged white male like me — to write the damn story to begin with. They think only women can tell a female story and fuck you, you creepy old dude in a flyover state for wanting to try your hand at it.

My reaction to this problem is it sobers me up. I take what I’m doing far more seriously. I’m lower my expectations. I’m writing the story for myself. If it happens that someone else — anyone else — likes it, then that’s great. But there are some existential issues that I simply can’t avoid — one is I hate MAGA with a white hot rage and, well, I’m also a middle aged white man. So, in real terms, it’s unlikely that the more “woke” members of the intended audience will be all that thrilled with it given that they liked the movie Booksmart and the novel The Female Persuasion. Identity politics narrows who will be willing to give me a chance in the first place. The very people who I will need to generate buzz — blue check liberals — are the very people the most likely to scoff that someone like me could write the type of novel I want to write in the first place.

But we’ll see, I guess. The story is improving greatly right now. It will be interesting to see how embarrassing the product is when I finish the next draft and let Beta Readers look at it.