you are breaking the three most important rules of writing a bestseller.
bestseller? i thought i was just writing this to pass the time.
yes, but if you are going to write something you might as well write something that will make a billion dollars, right? like stephen king or harry potter.
maybe? what is maybe about it? if you found a billion dollars in the street you’d pick it up, wouldn’t you?
all right, what are these three rules you are talking about ?
you don’t know? you want to guess?
no, just tell me.
sympathetic characters, sympathetic characters, and sympathetic characters.
i am serious. haven’t you ever read reviews on amazon? and seen how many people come right out and say - i didn’t like this book because i did not like the characters.
no, i never did.
you should, you might learn something. anyway, all the characters in your story so far are losers -
but i just started!
all right, but i am warning you, that is all. now, this girl who comes into the diner -
you should change it to an old edward hopper diner, everybody likes edward hopper.
places like that don’t exist any more!
so? anyway, as i was saying, this girl who comes into the diner or wendy’s or wherever, she is going to get killed, right? and her body tossed in or behind a dumpster?
maybe. don’t be such a big know-it-all.
well, whether she is alive or dead, was she going to be a sympathetic character? hmmm?
i had not decided - maybe she would be a bitch.
there you go. well, make her a bitch but be sure to have a sympathetic female character to offset her - probably a detective or f b i agent but she has to be young, beautiful, brilliant, totally feminist and pc, and like kids and dogs and have total empathy with everybody that should be empathized with.
yeesh. is that all?
maybe before you start -
i already started.
you should study the masters.
you mean like dickens and balzac,
no no, no dickens or balzac. balzac! i mean the writers that make billions, like james patterson and stephen king and j k rowling. especially j k rowling. that reminds me - you should do like rowling does - not just have a sympathetc characters and villains but foils.
foils. not out and out villains but people the heroine or hero can play off and put down and always get the better of. like a humorless bureaucrat or professor or the heroine’s boss or rival.
on one particularly foul and rainy morning, ray was sitting in the wendy’s on the corner, staring into a cup pf coffee, which was all he had been able to afford.
the four amigos were at “their” table, and ray had seated himself by the front window, as far away as possible from them, something he did not always do.
the four amigos were glancing over at him and smirking, like they were getting ready to open up on him on all cylinders, but were just… biding their time.
suddenly the door opened and a gust of rain and wind came in and wth it a girl.
she was wearing a raincoat with a hood that covered her whole head - like little red riding hood’s, but yellow. she flipped the hood back, revealing long blonde hair.
she looked like a movie star.
ray, and stan and the turk and umberto and vaclav, and the fifteen year old boy behind the counter, all stared at her.
for a few seconds none of them spoke, as the girl approached the counter.
“hey, snowflake!” stan yelled over at ray. “stop staring at that young lady! you’re invading her space!”
and his three buddies laughed, but the girl approached the counter and ignored them.
“yeah ,what are you, some kind of sicko?” the turk shouted at ray. “some kind of stalker?’ and the turk and stan laughed at ray, but umberto and vaclav kept their eyes on the girl.
“i wasn’t looking at her,” ray mumbled. he was red-faced and flustered - the amigos got to him every time.
“what’s that? you weren’t looking at her?” umberto growled. “why not? don’t you like girls?” and all four exploded in laughter.
meanwhile the girl had reached the counter, and asked for something in too soft a voice for any of the five men to hear.
bobby wilson, the young man behind the counter, had recovered his composure after the first shock of seeing her, as he was a very self-assured young fellow for his fifteen years.
bobby got the girl a small coffee and she left, without ever looking at ray or the four amigos.
“whoo-ee!” vaclav yelled as soon as the door was safely closed behind her. and all four started hooting and whooping like 12-yesr olds.
bobby could not help rolling his eyes. what a bunch of jerkoffs!
at the same time, he could not help feeling a little glad they were there, because he did not like to be alone with ray, who gave him the creeps.
even though ray had never actually said anything to or suggested anything to bobby that bobby could put his finger on. he always just ordered what he ordered - usually just coffee - without making eye contact.
ray was just a creepy guy.
now ray had finished his coffee, so he was ready to leave.
but then it occurred to him that the amigos would probably rag on him for “following” the girl.
so he stayed in his seat for a couple of minutes, staring into his empty cup.
the amigos left him alone. they were like dogs who had barked themselves out for a little while.
ray thought about the girl.
bobby and the four amigos had already forgotten her.
he had no friends because he was a loser and nobody liked him.
he did not talk much to other living creatures but when he did he always got into arguments.
he had no purpose in life.
ray was a watcher - a person who spent most of his life when he was not sleeping, in his room, watching television or streaming video.
sometimes he just stared at the walls or at the ceiling.
most of the time ray ordered his food from the delivery service.
but sometimes, usually early in the morning. after a night of terrible dreams, when he was feeling especially ornery and restless, he would go out to eat at a mcdonalds or burger king or wendy’s.
if it was a nice morning he would sometimes walk as far away as two miles, to a mcdonalds or burger king or wendy’s or even an ihop or denny’s that he had never been to before.
but if it was not such a nice day he would go to the wendy’s on the corner.
where he would almost always encounter the four amigos - stan, the turk, umberto , and vaclav. they were always sitting together at “their” table.
ray didn’t like them and they didn’t like him.
they knew ray was easy to rile up and they amused themselves doing so.
they called him names like “sunshine” and “smiley”, and worst of all - “snowflake”.
sometimes ray ignored them, but mostly he let them get to him.
in another time, the wendy’s would have been a diner, ruled with an iron hand by a guy named gus with a cigar between his teeth, or a woman named sal with tattoos on her arms, and they would not have stood for any nonsense or let things get out of hand.
as it was, there was always a teenaged girl or boy behind the counter - a different one every time - and they would just stare into space even if ray got into a shoving match or actual fisticuffs with the amigos.
are you looking at anything in particular out the window, or just looking out the window?
i’m looking at the rain.
is the rain interesting? is it forming fascinating or beautiful patterns?
not that i noticed.
why don’t you write a novel?
why would i want to do that?
it’s just a thought. nobody is forcing you to do anything.
oh, all right. i guess i have to.
you don’t have to, i just thought you might like it.
what do i need to start?
well, you need a tablet, or maybe a pencil and a notebook - or pad of paper. which would you prefer?
um - a pencil and paper. please.
the nanny, whose name was celeste-maria and had a lush, full body, went to the old-fashioned desk that had belonged to billy’s grandfather and found an 8 by 11 inch notepad and a nicely sharpened pencil and gave them to billy.
now what? billy asked.
first you need a title.
how long does it have to be?
as long or short as you like. it could be one word, like “life” or “conglomerate” or “marsupial”. it could be a thousand words long, if you like.
do you have any suggestions?
well, i don’t think it would be a very good start if you could not even come up with your own title, would it?
give me a hint.
well… i don’t know…
i tell you what. said billy, give me a title and then my title will be the opposite of yours.
all right, said celeste-maria, how about life in the sunshine?
then my novel will be death in the rain, said billy.
there you go, now you are off to a good start. with a good title, you are halfway there.
father jack pulled his pants up and buckled his belt.
his voice trembled. “this is a terrible thing you’ve done, johnny,” he said. “to tempt anybody - any child of god - into unsanctified carnal acts is a terrible, terrible sin. but to seduce a priest - a priest consecrated to god and the holy blessed virgin like myself - is a sin so terrible as to shock satan himself.”
johnny looked at father jack with the trace of a smirk. “it was your idea,” he said.
“my idea! but it was you who wagged your round little butt at me and put carnal thoughts in my head!”
“if you say so.”
“i do say so. and there is one other thing i have to say. as terrible as your sin was in seducing me, there is one sin even more terrible than that - one that is even more certain to send your miserable little soul into the lowest of the depths of hell.”
johnny just stared at father jack.
“and that is the sin,” father jack intoned, “ of bringing disgrace and shame to holy mother church by accusing me of - of forcing you to act sinfully.”
“don’t worry about it.” and with that johnny left father jack to his thoughts.
father jack watched through the window of the rectory basement as johnny got on his bike and rode away with, to father jack’s eyes, one last provoking wiggle of his ass.
the years went by.
johnny had sex with various other humans, his own age and older, and as he got older himself, sometimes younger. sometimes he enjoyed it, sometimes not so much.
father jack continued to be plagued by a continuous stream of evil little cockteasers leading him into temptation.
as it happened , father jack and johnny both died on the same day. father jack of a heart attack , and johnny in a motorcycle accident.
they appeared before the tribunal of heaven within minutes of each other.
st peter and a jury of archangels decided that father jack, despite his terrible sins, had sincerely repented of them, and so, after a suitable stopover in purgatory, would be admitted into heaven.
johnny had exhibited no remorse, and had no extenuating circumstances for his misdeeds. he had, after all, been ten years old when he encountered father jack - three years over the age of consent - and had never looked back in his career of sin and lechery.
father jack felt bad for johnny as he watched him disappear screaming into the pit of hell, and would have saved him if he could.
they had some things in common, others not so much.
but they both paid their share of the rent on time , so they stayed together as the months and years went by.
ralph worked in a drugstore, pete in the bakery section of a supermarket.
at the end of the day, neither of them ever wanted to talk about their jobs.
neither of them had much interest in women, or fine cuisine, or even going to the movies.
ralph had no formal education, but he liked to go to the library and read books to try to educate himself.
he read books about astrology, and archaeology, and the history of the automobile, and arctic and antarctic exploration, and buddhism, and all sorts of things.
he read the bible and the quran, and books by plato and st augustine and schopenhauer and heidigger and sartre and derrida and ayn rand.
and biographies of cleopatra and mary queen of scots and stalin and hitler and winston churchill and j robert oppenheimer and so forth.
he developed his own theories about life and history and the universe, and he would sometimes try to share these with pete.
pete’s only interests were playing the lottery (on which all his dreams were centered) and betting on the races and on football.
when ralph started expounding his ideas about life and history, and especially when he tried to relate them to current events, pete would listen with one ear, and if he responded at all, it was usually by saying,
“it’s not that simple.”
pete would then return his attention to the racing form, or to considering whether he should bet on the green bay packers or the arizona cardinals in the monday night football game.
ralph was a little disappointed that pete did not take more interest in his theories, but on the other hand he did not lose any sleep about it.
the days went by.
one morning ralph got up and he noticed that pete must not have gotten up, because his coffee cup was not beside the sink.
pete always had a cup or two of coffee in the morning and then washed the cup and left it beside the sink to dry before he went to work at the supermarket.
after knocking, ralph went into pete’s room.
pete was lying on his back with his mouth open. he was dead. had died in the night, without ever winning the lottery.