NaNoWriMo 2

A couple of days ago, I was walking home from the grocery store. It was after school had let out, and it was Halloween. In front of me, on the sidewalk, around the corner from my house, a couple of kids were walking, a boy and a girl, and the girl was carrying a single red rose. Maybe early teens. I liked that image, the boy and girl walking together, the girl carrying a rose, the sky overcast, the rose the only real color on a gray day. About them? Nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy, except while they were together, it was clear they weren’t together. Later that night, after the trick-or-treaters had gone to bed, I was watching an episode of Wallender, the Swedish detective series from the BBC with Kenneth Branagh as Wallender. It’s great TV. The saturated panoramic landscapes, the mysteries, which are fairly ordinary, even if the landscape is not. What makes it watchable, and insistently so, Branagh himself in the title role. Middle-aged, a bit grizzled, a bit paunchy, his eyes rimed with red – he’s a character embodied by an actor that I can really relate to. And Branagh embodies the character. Gives Wallender real human depth. I haven’t read the novels, but this isn’t a cold-as-nails, hardboiled detective. This is a man who is totally absorbed in his job, and totally self-aware in his knowledge of the toll that the job takes on him and his life, those he loves.

And so, somehow, the idea came to me to write some sort of detective or mystery story – not Swedish, of course – about the girl with a rose.

Add to that an image of a woman in a picture that I saw recently, a woman I don’t know—you come across this stuff on the Internet. It was the face that was interesting. Likely the same age, give or take a year or two, as Wallender, not to mention me. It was the face of someone who was once a pretty girl, but now, thanks to time and age, and thanks to the angle of the photograph, perhaps, had that look, a memorable look, like Beverly D’Angelo in Entourage. The kittenish blonde from Hair and National Lampoon’s Vacation transformed by age into someone as formidable as an avenging angel. I thought, I can do something with that. And because I’m terrible with names, I gave her my late mom’s name (sorry mom), if only as a placeholder. (Her birthday happens to be during November, so maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know.

I don’t know what goes on another writer’s heads, how they get their ideas, but this is how it works for me, an image here or there that’s otherwise meaningless, some recollection from the past, some atmospheric thing like a cloudy, chilly afternoon, and there suddenly is the stuff of fiction. Then it becomes my job to follow and see where it leads.

Somehow, it seemed like the ideal thing for NaNoWriMo. Take a look. See what you think. And comment, please.

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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

Tell me what you think. Seriously.