“Write what you know.” It doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means, but what if it did? What if some young writer, say, just a few years younger than me at the time, decided he wanted to write the kind of book that becomes a best seller? Back then that meant a lusty, swashbuckling, Fabio-on-the-cover type book. So, you have the desire to do that, but you’re kind of a nerd; a sweet-tempered, book-wormy nerd. So what then? And since I didn't know much, trying to get into the head of a writer who didn't know what to write about seemed a good fit.
“Fish out of water.” This is a type of story I’ve always gravitated to. Usually my stories take a comedic-type person and insert him in a typically serious genre. It’s what I grew up on, Laurel and Hardy in classic operettas. The Marx Brothers at the opera. Inspector Clouseau solving murders. Abbott and Costello battling monsters. However, these are not the potting soils of great epics, grand character arcs and insights into the human condition, as I always imagined novels to be. No, my idea would need to dwell in the domain of comedy. That’s what I do. I write comedy. So now my thoughts turned into a challenge. Could I write this story, this novel, and could I write it as a comedy? I would have to, it was the only way I knew how.
The notion became a concept. The concept a tale. A title popped into my head, a great title and that’s when the whole shebang came together. That title was “The Write Stuff” (Years later, it got demoted to a working title, but let's not get ahead of ourselves). But, seriously, as is often the case, once I get a title, the story falls into place.
A character formed; the character that would have to carry this story on his back. So, naturally he became a slim, scruffy, bespectacled 20-something guy who wanted to write in the worse way (to coin a straight line). Because it was going to be a comedy, I didn’t want to beat any one situation to death for hundreds of pages, the nature of the character and the tone dictated the direction the adventure would take. It would become an episodic odyssey, with my protagonist, Max Federman, finding himself in a series of different tales over the course of his journey. It could work. Comedy works best in shorter venues. It would keep me from getting bored with the project, as a section wound its course, I could start a new chapter in a new situation. If I did this enough times, I'd have a book! I could populate each section with an assortment of new and wacky characters. Max and the tone of the story would be the through line (even that would change in time). Hopefully this would all generate more pages that I was typically used to producing. In theory...