I took the weekend off from writing, and though I wanted to write yesterday, I had too much stuff to do out of the house to get anything done. I woke up this morning before my alarm, and I got to work as fast as I could, because I wanted to know what happened next in my story.
I think I have identified the complete three act structure, more or less, and I’ve also figured out how this story can loosely follow a Hero’s Journey. That’s not to say that I’m following a formula, just that understanding how those structures apply to this story will help me know where I am in the narrative when I get there, instead of having to look back a few thousand words and compare.
Last week, I thought I’d finish this up around 30,000 words, but I know it’s going to go longer than that. On the one hand, that’s cool because it means I’m putting together a much bigger story than I thought possible when I started. On the other hand, if it doesn’t all hold together, that’s a lot of words that aren’t necessarily going to see publication.
But I’m not worrying about that now. Right now, I’m enjoying every step of this process, and having a really good time as I level up my ability as a writer and storyteller. Even if this whole thing ends up being cut down by half or something, it will have been worth the time I spent writing it, and I’m pretty sure that, once it’s finished and I get some fresh eyes and perspectives on it, I can polish it up and ensure it holds together in the rewriting process.
This is a significant growth for me, personally and professionally, because as recently as two months ago, I would have been convinced that it had to be perfect and ready to publish right out of the first draft, when I know that only a select number of extremely experienced writers are capable of doing that.
So I wanted to share a little piece that I wrote today, because I think it’s neat. As always, this is a first draft and will likely change before it’s finally published:
If you go to Universal Studios now, it’s a full-on tourist destination. There are multiple high rise hotels, an epic shopping and dining area with a few dozen shops and fancy restaurants, and an actual theme park with thrill rides. In the 80s, it was much smaller. There was a single hotel, two fancy…ish restaurants (the train-themed Victoria Station, which was reachable by funicular, and Whomp Hopper’s, which was western wagon-themed for some reason) and not a single thrill ride. The entire theme park experience was just a few shows of varying quality, and the eponymous tour. A lot of people talk about how the world seemed simpler, and less complicated when they were young, and I think that could apply to Universal, but my clearest memory of it, the way that I can best describe it, is “uncluttered.” I’ve been once as an adult, and a lot of the magic I loved as a kid is just gone, and it isn’t because I’m older and know how all the tricks work; it’s just another theme park that’s too crowded, and the tour feels more like an afterthought than it did when I was a kid. But in 1983, it was amazing.
When we got off the bus, the counselors met us, and we gathered in small groups around them. Carlos told us that we’d spend the first couple hours seeing the different shows, and then we’d reconnect with the rest of the group to ride the tour. We were going to all get our own car in the tour tram, which I thought was pretty cool. There were six other kids in our group, including the red headed kid from the previous day, and a brother and sister who were fraternal twins. I can see their faces in my memory, dirty blond hair and brown eyes, braces on both of them and dark summer tans, but I can’t remember their names. It was like Michael and Michelle, or Abby and Andy, or one of those precious naming combos that yuppies in the 80s did, like giving everyone in the family the same first letter in their name.
Carlos wore what would be an ironic trucker hat today, but was entirely sincere then. His Van Halen tank top was tucked into his shorts (and if I can step out of the story for a real quick second and just say to the kids today who are romanticizing how we dressed in the early 80s: no. Just … no. Don’t make the same mistakes we did.)
I did 2032 words today, for a total of 26505. I’d keep writing because I love where I am in the story right now, but Anne and I are going to a show tonight, on a date, like adults.
And this, which I found while I was searching for a title image, is too great not to share:
I really hope this all holds together, because I love telling this story.
36 thoughts on ““a full day of hollywood, from the other side of the camera””
I haven’t been entirely sure what to expect from this beast you’re writing; if it would be sci-fi (ala Stranger Things) or something else. It’s fun to get a sneak peak at how it’s coming together!
Love, love, love the third paragraph aside to not romanticize 80s fashion! “No…just no.” I graduated high school 1987 so I have clear, horrifying memories of all the style choices I thought were critical to survival…good god! Looking back through my old yearbooks…not awesome in any way. Thank you for sharing your writing! You are inspiring me to maybe take a shot at writing again. Used to write reams long ago but made the cardinal mistake of having my dad read my stuff (knowing him and knowing full well what he’d say.) I wanted his approval so badly but he told me it was crap and I haven’t written seriously since. It might be time to finally stop using that event as an excuse for not doing something I’d like to do just for me…those old tapes are powerful but really only as powerful as you allow them to be. Anyway, I appreciate all these updates on what you are working on. You have sounded happier/more settled the last couple posts as well. Hope that’s the case.
Just to speak to you as one writer who values his craft, your dad doesn’t know crap. If it’s powerful to you, then it was worth you writing it. There are many people who would tell me that my book isn’t worth the 2.99 it’s listed for on Amazon, but it blows MY hair back (Matt Damon in good will hunting). Write the story or book or poem that blows your hair back then let someone who would appreciate it (like me. :D) read it and tell you how talented you really are. Writing is an art and it will die if people don’t take the time to do it.
Thank you so much for your kind comment! I left my remark on this blog post a week ago and just left it at that. Today, after reading Wil’s newest post, I decided to scroll back to reread this bit of his novella and caught your reply! It made me laugh out loud (literally, not just as a cutesy acronym.) I am definitely going to jump back into writing…I have a story idea that just won’t leave me alone and it is time to let it loose. Thanks for taking the time to drop some much-needed & appreciated encouragement to a stranger!
Have you read Wired For Story? It’s like a writing bible to me and I think you would like it and find it essential as a reference and reminder.
Awesome man. Glad to see your’re doing something that makes you happy. Keep at it and I hope to read it someday
Wil, hey, You have a strong voice on your blog posts and it was a surprise and delight to hear that same honest, heartfelt voice in your writing. More please!
If you like this and haven’t read his previous books you should definitely check them out. He does have a strong voice, and unique, and it’s always present in those stories as well.
I would also recommend the audio versions, because there’s nothing like hearing Wil tell you the stories himself. 🙂
My super awesome Gam-gams (full disclosure: she was never called “Gam-gams”) made sure I took in all the So Cal Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Magic Mountain, Universal Studios tomfoolery when I was a kid. I remember the Bates Motel, Bruce the shark, the parting of the Red Sea, some sort of Mexican border town thing, and Cylons, I guess. I was probably ten and didn’t know what any of those came from, except the Cylons, of course.
I also remember getting those commemorative smashed pennies, because why the hell not? And some sort of waxed statues of… monsters, or something. Dunno. I wonder if anyone anywhere still has any of those extremely fragile wax statues from the 1970s. I don’t remember how exactly, but I am highly confident that my wax monster statues died by flame or firecracker. It’s just perfect kid logic is all.
The odds that something that fragile survived the gaping hellmaw of the pre- (and post-) adolescent pyschopathy of a young Spudnuts is exactly nil. Like Big Jim McBob and Billy Sol Hurok used to say: “It blowed up good. Real good.”
Damn. Must be losing my touch.
Ohhhhhhh man! I had a Creature From The Black Lagoon in a color that might best be called “1968 Avocado Appliance Green”
That came up from some axons & dendrites that haven’t been called upon to fire in quite some time. Poor old retired axons & dendrites sitting there in their barco-loungers enjoying an episode of MAS*H and a Schlitz beer, when I rudely called upon them to bring back a memory so far back and so tucked-under-other-things that unearthing it was tantamount to an episode of ‘Hoarders’. Holy crap. ?? That was fun. Just for the briefest of moments I was 8 again. My God. That was actually weird. Cool, but weird. I wonder if – someday – we’ll have the technology to go back and live those memories again – to experience them as children. I’m sure it’s possible. Paul McCartney’s guitar player said that when they kick into one of the classic songs, he will occasionally see someone in the audience full-on revert to childhood. He says it only lasts for the briefest of moments before they revert to adulthood, but in that moment, you can see the 60 year old man as his teenage self.
Very cool story, Wil! Good memories.
I’ve always found that my deepest, most vivid memories were triggered by scents.
I honestly can still smell that wax melting. I recall that odor vividly.
I believe that about what the guitar player says he can sometimes see.
Whatever happens to the story after you are finished writing it down has yet to happen– whether it makes you a million dollars and makes millions of people happy, or whether it goes into the toilet. But either event doesn’t erase the joy of writing it. I used to feel that unless my quilt was a work of art at the end that it wasn’t worth doing. That is not the case. It is worthwhile for little kids to make art not because of the quality of the product, but because of the joy of the process and the deep learning that comes out of it about the nature of materials, the connections between inner life and outer life, and what it means to be a human. Carry on with the joy, Wil.
Every one read the comment above this reply again.
You’ll definitely want to find a copy editor to move a few commas and subordinate clauses around, and to do some of the needed grammatical tinkering before you publish a final draft. But the heart of the piece — the nostalgia and sense of wonder and the evocation of that “simpler” time (not so simple if you were a kid navigating between Van Halen tops and Polo shirts) — will surely strike a chord with many other readers like me. You’ve been the young guy acting in Stand By Me — maybe it’s about time that you wrote a script for the next generation of young actors to perform. Good stuff, Wil!
Your style of writing is so readable…it’s wonderful to know more will be coming!
I went on the Universal tour around 30 years ago, it was a lot of fun to see everything back then, and I still remember that shark!
Have fun on your “adult” evening!
This reminds me of visiting Universal back in the early 80s. Specifically, I remember the Frankenstein character walking around the park and a 70s or early 80s era van that had most of the innards missing and was attached to a mechanism that allowed you to pretend you had enough strength to lift the van. I also remember a cage with thick, black metal bars you could stand in, except the two bars in the center were rubber to make it seem you could bend the bars and break out. There are pictures somewhere of my brother and I doing each of these things.
Good stuff, Wil. Thanks for sharing.
I am really, really looking forward to this, Wil! Your description of “old” Universal Studios is right on point. I went there in November 1978 and was somewhat disappointed because nothing was shooting that day. But it was nice to see the Psycho House. “Jaws” was a letdown.
I think it’s great to write a story that has its talons firmly gripping your subconscious. That snippet intrigues me, if only for the basic reason that I actually felt you being 100% serious.
I love your description of 80’s fashion and the irony of it as it fits in today’s world. Also, you created a fantastic sense of nostalgia with your words. Thanks! I hope to read more soon!
Still reading what you put here. In the 80’s it was letters with gum for there was no internet for most of us & c er certainly not the smart phone that I can use from the creek bed or couch.
I really enjoyed the reading the sneak peak. Also, I’ve never considered the difference between structure and formula. Thanks for sharing.
It is of my opinuon that Will here lijes to sneak around, with married women and tge 6ft2 230lb Combat Proven Marine he, recently disrespected is goibg to make that motherfucker ubderstabd why it isnt smart to fuck with a Marines fanily.
I guarabtee you when all is said, abd done… his mouth wont be as smart and he willl tbink twice before he tries to break up the next home.
Son…. you have NEVER seen what im gonna bring you.
Dont worry. . It will only hurt for a very long fucking time
You, are fucking done kid
I don’t know what you’re talking about. Are you threatening me? Do I need to contact the police and FBI?
Who rhreatened who? Do what you gotta do kid.
You might as well call the CIA & James Bond too if you’re involving the FBI.
Just know that when they dig…. all the snales xome out with whatever you lift the rock to find
I… Don’t know what this means. Help?
I think he’s looking for Bil.
I think he’s looking for a spell checker. And also that he’s not smart enough to know that his threats can likely be tracked to an IP address so…
You’re entirely too nice, Mr. W.
I moderate a board and generally am hands-off about it, but anything violent gets reported, nuked and IPblocked. Obviously, your call, but if you think people will be upset by a lack of transparency if you moderate stuff like that too heavily, well… here’s one person who won’t.
Most people are nice, but some people… not so much. Yesterday I drove up north of Seattle on business and was checking news while eating breakfast at the B&B this morning… and saw that some random Dipsh* shot up a shopping mall a little north of where I was. Talk about creepy… Then again, I lived in San Pedro during the LA riots which was a 10 out of 10 on my personal WTF-o-meter. I still remember closing my business & sending people home, then picking my girlfriend up and driving down to Dana Point with her to stay with a friend. As we were driving down the freeway, it looked post-apocalyptic with smoke from fires dotting areas on both sides of the freeway.
This post is hilarious. It looks like it was written by Mush Mouth. Heby Fabt Albert… It really loses the intimidation factor it was going for because of this.
I just discovered your blog this week, and it has been a lot of fun, along with some soul searching on my part, reading through several pages so far of your posts. I would have had no idea you have fought the mental issues you have. You’re not alone as I am sure you know. I have dealt with low level depression and higher level anxiety for many years. Mine is compounded by, if not caused by, severe RLS that keeps me from ever sleeping well. sigh I just wanted you to know that you write very well, and that you have many admirers out here. By the way, from one geek to another, I think it was you who got me back into board gaming, and you have motivated me to try to get back into writing again, which I haven’t done in over 20 years. I wish you many more happy times as you continue your journey through this physical plane we’re all on.
the daughter of my third grade teacher went with her high school marching band to disneyland & they went to universal studios. the teacher went as a chaperon & she brought back pictures.
this was like 1986-87 and i vaguely recall that she got pictures with K.I.T.T from knight rider & herself in one of those put-your-face-in-a-cutout picture things of scarlett o’hara & rett butler in a pose they used on posters of her in a red dress & him leaning in to kiss her.
My fondest memory of the Universal tour was when I went on it shortly after Back to the Future had come out, and the clock tower building was still dressed as the clock tower, so the tram stopped for a few minutes so we could all oooo and aaaah at the building.
My worst memory is from my first time there, when I couldn’t have been more than 7. I got scared poopless by that spinning tunnel “avalanche” thing.
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