Saturday, January 27, 2007

My Story Writing Process

This is the kind of thing I usually write in my notebooks. In the form that this is in now, I would never show it to anybody. Basically, what follows is a rough first draft. Usually, it will sit there for a while, then I will get back to it a few months later. Then I will keep playing around with it, and changing it until either I go crazy, or just say forget it, it's done. In successive rewrites, it might change totally. Instead of the Marsalis family, it might end up being any American family. Instead of being a family of well known, well to do musicians, they could end up being a family of working class construction workers.

In the rewrites, things would be taken out, other things would be added, and everything would coalesce into something more unified that would make more sense. It seems that in my writing process, everything gets bigger, and bigger, until I sense it is too big. Then I start cutting down, and throwing things away, including the sentences, paragraphs, and ideas that I like best. Someone once said that editing is like killing your children. I know exactly how that feels.

Each story starts out in different forms. Sometimes, it starts out as a sort of script, as in the example that follows. Sometimes, it starts out in a normal story form, scribbled furiously in longhand, during the time of inspiration. The longer ones take several days, or even as long as a month. In the case of the longer stories, once I am finished with the initial writing, I get a genuine feeling of relief, as if a burden has been lifted off my soul. This is probably becaus as I am writing any story, I don't know what will happen next, or how it wil end, and I am as anxious, or even more anxious to see how it ends than any reader.

What I also find is that in every one of my stories, there are actually two, and sometimes three, different stories entwined together, and what I have to do is separate them from each other, and then work on them individually.

So here is an example of a first draft that I have written. It doesn't mean that I will ever rewrite it. Another inspiration might hit at any time, and this story will be forgotten over the next few weeks, months, or years, until I go back and read through an old notebook, trying to see what is worth saving or reworking. Once it is out, that might be it.

So this story is out, and has been given birth. If later I decide to rewrite it, and work on it. I will post the final result here. If not then this will remain here, as it is, just like it would in one of my notebooks.


In doing some research about the Marsalis family, I found out that there are six brothers, four of whom have made successful careers as musicians. That got me to thinking- what about the other two? There is plenty of information available on the musical brothers, but I can't even find out the names of the non-musical duo. Why haven’t they followed their father and other brothers into the family business?

That got me to thinking. If you know me, you know that is a dangerous thing. You never know what kind of things my mind will come up with. Well, what it came up with was a scenario like this:

(Scene- The Marsalis family household. Father Ellis is in the living room, sitting at the piano, playing some soft, smooth jazz. Mrs. Dolores Marsalis stands next to him, her hand on his shoulder, smiling contentedly. In Walks the oldest son, six year old Branford.)

Branford- You wanted to see me?

Ellis- Yes, son. Your mother and I were talking. You are six years old now, and we think it is time for you to learn to play a musical instrument.

Branford- Really? Cool! So what do you think I should play?

Ellis- Well, your mother and I have talked it over, and taken your personality into account. We feel that the perfect instrument for you would be-

(He takes out a case and opens it up)

The cool saxophone!

Branford- Wow! Mom, Dad, I love it! Thank You!

(Branford walks out tootling some really smooth Jazz riffs)

(Scene- the same setting, one year later. Ellis is sitting at he piano, playing some ragtime. Mom stands next to him, without her hand on his shoulder. A young Wynton walks in.)

Wynton- You wanted to see me, Dad?

Ellis- Yes, son. Your mother and I feel that you have reached an age where you are ready to learn a musical instrument, like your older brother Branford. We have taken your personality into account, and feel that the instrument you are best suited to learn is-

(He takes out a case from under the piano) – the regal trumpet!

Wynton- A trumpet. Yeah. That’s cool.

(He takes it, looks it over carefully, then walks away playing some Miles Davis.)

(Scene- the same as before, a couple of years later. Ellis is playing a traditional Jazz tune. His wife is standing further away from him, with her arms folded, and a bit of a sour expression on her face. In walks the next in line- Delfeayo)

Delfeayo – You wanted to see me?

Ellis- (looking over at his wife, who rolls her eyes) Yes son, your mother and I have been talking about a few things. I feel that you have reached an age where you are ready to learn a musical instrument. I have taken your personality into account, and I feel that the perfect instrument for you is-

(He brings out a case and opens it up) – the slide trombone!

(his wife unfolds her arms and throws a little snit)

Delfeayo- (a bit goofy) A troooooooooombooooooone! Wooooooohooooooo! Yeehah!

(he runs over and hugs his mom and dad). I don’t believe it! This is soooooo greeeeat! Thanks!

(He walks away, playing some Dixieland)

Mother- (hands on her hips) Now why did you have to go and get that boy a trombone? What is wrong with you?

(Ellis just looks up at her)

(Scene- The same as before, a few years later. This time Dolores is standing way behind Ellis, looking at him as if he has lost his mind.. A moody looking Ellis is banging out a rhythmic and percussive tune on the piano. A glass of scotch rests within easy reach. Jason walks in.)

Jason- You wanted to see me, Dad?

Ellis- Yeah. It's time for you to learn to play the drums.

(He looks over at Dolores, takes a drink, and motions with his head toward a drum kit sitting in the corner.)

(Jason gets behind the drums, and launches into a loud extended drum solo.)

Dolores- That does it! I'm out of here!

(She storms out. Jason stops playing. Ellis just shrugs, and takes another swig.)

(Scene- Same as before. A disheveled and unshaven Ellis sits at the piano, drinking bourbon straight from the bottle, and playing some angry sounding free Jazz. A wary looking son creeps into the living room)

Unknown Son 1- You wanted to see me, Father?

EllisYeah, You have to learn to play a musical instrument, just like your brothers.

Unknown Son 1- (perking up) Really? Great! So what do you want me to play?

Ellis- (Finishes taking another swig from the bottle, and wipes his mouth. He nods his head toward a dark corner.) It's over there.

(The son runs over to the corner like a kid about to open up his presents at Christmas.)

Unknown Son 1- (He pulls out a set of decrepit looking, moldy bagpipes) Bagpipes!!!

Ellis- (Lets out a long, hard belch) Uh-huh.

Unknown Son 1- Dad, black people don't play bagpipes.

Ellis- So then, you'll be the worlds first black Jazz bagpiper.

Unknown Son 1- But why the bagpipes? Couldn't you have gotten me a guitar, or maybe a bass?

Ellis-Listen boy, your mother left, and left me with you boys, and nothing else. You're darn lucky that I was able to get you those bagpipes.

Unknown Son 1- But where in New Orleans were you able to find a set of bagpipes?

Ellis- I won them from a drunken Irishman in a poker game in the French Quarter. That, and this case of fine Irish whiskey. (He kicks at a crate, and several empty bottles tumble out and roll across the floor.)

Unknown Son 1-But dad, I don't want to play the bagpipes!

Ellis Don't argue with me son, bagpipes are a wonderful musical instrument with a long and proud history. Many a proud Irishman and Scotsman has gone into battle lead by a bagpiper-

Unknown Son 1 Yeah, so that maybe the enemy would kill him first and save them from the noise. I mean dad, didn't someone once say that, "If there is music in hell, it has to be bagpipes"?

Ellis- Ahhhhh . . . get out of here, you ungrateful little brat! I try to get you started on a musical career, and what thanks do I get? (Gets up and threatens to hit his son upside his head).

Now get out, and send your brother in here.

(He walks out dejectedly, blowing into the bagpipes and making the most horrible screech imaginable. After a couple of seconds, Unknown Brother 2 walks in like he is going to his death)

Ellis- You might as well go and get yours. It's over by the bookcase.

(Unknown Brother 2 walks over, and starts rummaging through a pile of junk. He picks out and discards various things- rubber chickens, empty Domino's Pizza boxes, various items of laundry, etc.)

Unknown Brother 2- I don't see anything.

Ellis -Do I always have to do everything myself? (He goes over to the pile, and starts rummaging through it. He pulls out a glockenspiel, and holds it up.)

Unknown Brother 2- A GLOCKENSPIEL?!!!

Ellis-Hey, if Lionel Hampton can play the vibraphone, then you can play the glockenspiel!!! Now get out of here.

(Unknown Brother 2 runs out, and Ellis sends an empty whiskey bottle flying after him)

Voice over- Things eventually got better between Delores and Ellis. They got back together, went through counseling, and their marriage became stronger and more loving then ever. (Scene- shot through a door- a hand throwing a vase. Sound effects- breaking glass, inaudible loud yelling)

Four of their sons- Branford, Wynton, Delfeayo, and Jason, became famous Jazz musicians.

(Scene- the four brothers and dad happily playing a lively Jazz tune together on stage)


But what ever became of the two unknown brothers?

(Scene- a full subway platform. A black guy dressed in a neon colored plaid kilt and regalia, with gold chains, a huge afro, and carrying a moldy looking set of bagpipes. Everyone is looking at him. He stops, puts an old pot on the ground, and prepares to play, trying to look dignified. He attempts to play a well known Jazz tune, but the result is so horrible that everyone falls to the ground holding their ears and begging for mercy. One person crawls over, and drops some money into the pot, begging him to stop. The bagpiper motions for more. Others crawl over and drop money into the pot, until finally the piper looks into the pot, nods his head, and walks away.)

(Cut to: The young Unknown Brother 2. He closes the door of the living room, and looks at the glockenspiel. He starts hitting keys on it at random. Suddenly, blue smoke starts streaming out of the glockenspiel. Unknown Brother 2 gives a start, and drops the glockenspiel. The smoke clears, and standing before him is a large, stocky, older Aryan looking man, with a full mustache. He is dressed in lederhosen, knee socks, the full German bit. The boy stares at him, bewildered.)

Genii- (gives a snappy salute, and stands at attention) Guten abend, mein herr!

Unknown Brother 2- Uhhhhhhh.... dad......

Genii- I am the Genii of the glockenspiel! Because you have played the magical combination of keys and released me, I must grant you a wish. Whenever you play the magical combination of keys, I must grant you three wishes. Remember it, and you will have whatever you want in life.

Unknown Brother 2- What's the combination?

Genii- I can't tell you that. You must know it, you played it.

Unknown Brother 2- But I don't know what I played! I was just fooling around. You have to let me know what it was!

Genii- (petulantly) Nope. What is your wish?

Unknown Brother 2- I want you to show me what the secret combination is.

Genii- Nein! I can't do that!

Unknown Brother 2- Why not? You said I could make a wish, and that's what I want!

Genii- Ja, I did.

Unknown Brother 2- So why can't I have my wish?

Genii- Because you didn't make a wish!

<u>Unknown Brother 2- Huh? Oh, OK. I wish that you would tell me what the secret combination is.

Genii- That's better, but the answer is still no.

Unknown Brother 2- Why?

Genii It's against the Genii code to reveal that information. It's right here in the handbook. (He produces what seems to be a gardening magazine)

Unknown Brother 2- What? I don't believe you. That's not a Genii handbook, that's a gardening magazine.

Genii Ahhh, bu you see, we Genii's are clever that way! It may look like a gardening magazine, but it is actually a Genii handbook in disguise.

Unknown Brother 2- OK, OK, bu you still have to grant me a wish.

Genii- Ja, go ahead and make a wish.

Unknown Brother 2- I want, Uhhh, I wish that I could make as many wishes as I wanted.

Genii- Sorry, I can't do that.

Unknown Brother 2- Why not? It's my wish!

Genii- Ja, but according to my gardening magazine- I mean Genii handbook, I can't grant that wish.

Unknown Brother 2- The what can you do?

Genii- I can grant you a wish.

Unknown Brother 2- But you've refused to grant anything I've asked you for.

Genii- Ja, because you don't ask me nicely.

Unknown Brother 2- Oh OK! (sweetly) Could you please grant me a wish?

Genii- Ja, und vat vould you like?

Unknown Brother 2- I would like-

Genii- -be careful-

Unknown Brother 2- What?

Genii- It's an old saying- "Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it!"

Unknown Brother 2- I wish you would stop interrupting me!

Genii- Ok, done!

Unknown Brother 2- Ok, now my wish is . . . (He looks over to see the Genii shaking his head). What?

Genii- I've just granted your wish. I've stopped interrupting you!

Unknown Brother 2- But that's not what I want!

Genii- That's what you asked for! Sorry, all wishes are non-returnable, non-refundable.

Unknown Brother 2- Auuuuuggggghhhh! You are so annoying!

Genii- No I'm not! (He sticks his tongue out at him).

Unknown Brother 2- Yes you are! I wish you would go away, and leave me alone!

Genii- Ok, that's three wishes! Auf wiedersehn!

Unknown Brother 2- Wait! That's not... I want my wishes...

(He starts banging again on the glockenspiel) Genii! Genii! Come back! I want my wishes! Geniiiiiiii!!!!

(His father and brothers come running.)

Ellis- Hey, What's going on here?

Unknown Brother 2- Well, I was playing this realy cool glockenspiel you gave me, when this German Genii came out and promised to grant me three wishes. Then . . . (The camera pulls away, and we can't hear what is being said, but we can see their reaction. They all obviously think he is crazy).

(Scene- A teenaged Unknown Brother 2. He is sitting on the floor of his bedroom. The lights are out, and the room is lit by candles. He has an altar lit by candles in the center of the room, with the glockenspeil sitting in the middle, and pictures of Boris Becker and Steffi Graf flanking it. Really loud "oompah" music alternating with polkas and yodeling plays in the background. He Takes a large drink from a huge stein of beer, then starts pounding wildly on the glockenspiel, trying to summon the Genii).

Unknown Brother 2- Ooooh Genii, Genii!!! Please come back to me, oh Genii!

(He leaves an offering of bratwurst on the altar. He bangs wildly on the glockenspiel, then replaces it, and repeatedly bows to the altar.)

Please Genii, be merciful to me, your humble servant.

(He picks up the glockenspiel. Just as he does, two men in white coats rush in and grab him. He struggles, and bangs on the glockenspiel. As he does, some blue smoke starts rising from the floor.)

Unknown Brother 2- No! No! The Genii is coming! The Genii is Coming!!!

Attendant 1- Yeah, yeah, we know. We've heard it all before. Jesus is coming, the anti-christ, Joan of Arc, and a whole bunch of others are coming, too. Now here's a little something to make you feel better, and make that nasty old Genii go away.

(He sticks a needle in Unknown Brother 1's arm, and he immediately goes limp.)

Unknown Brother 2- The Geniiiiii . . . the Geennnnn . . .

(Ellis walks in and looks around, and shakes his head)

Ellis- I don't know. I tried everything I could. All he talked about was this blue Genii who would grant his every wish.

Genii- (appears from the shadows in the corner) Und vat ist wrong vit dat?

(Ellis' eyes become the size of dinner plates. He blinks them a couple of times, shakes his head, then slowly backs out of the room and closes the door.)

Genii- (shouting) Don't you vant your tree vishes?

(Cut to: Unknown Brother 1, dressed as before, riding in a New York City subway car, playing an excessively screechy and out of tune version of "Puppy Love". The rest of the people are lying on the foor of the car, writhing in pain and screaming for mercy. He stops playing and takes his collection can around. Everyone starts putting money in his can. If they don't, he starts playing again, and the victim throws whatever money they have in their pocket in the can.)
(Cut to: a group of Army Rangers in combat readiness as the train enters the station. They are in full combat gear, and wearing huge noise canceling headphones.)

Leader- All right, get ready. Put on the headphones, and turn your white noise generator up to 11. We need to get in there fast! The boss says to take him down, but don't harm him.

(The train pulls into the station, and they rush aboard, weapons at the ready. They surround him, and cautiously approach him.)

Leader- Ok, put down the bagpipes, and put your hands in the air! do as I say, and you won't get hurt!

(Unknown Brother 1 stands there, terrified.)

Leader- Do it! NOW!

( unknown brother 1 drops the bagpipes, and puts up his hands. The soldiers cautiously approach him, and one gingerly picks up the bagpipes.)

Leader- Ok, don't worry, we're not going to hurt you. The boss wants to see you. He has need for someone like you.

(They march him out. The leader looks back at the people lying on the floor of the train.)

Leader-Kaczynski! Call 911! I don't think some of them are going to make it!

(Cut to: An office in the White House. Present are the Army Ranger leader, Unknown Brother 1, and Dick Cheney).

Dick Cheney- Yes, we've heard all about your work from our sources. You do incredible work. We could use someone like you in our fight against the terrorists, against those trying to bring our country down!

(Cut to: A joint session of the houses of Congress. The Democrats are already seated. The Republicans come in, lead by Unknown Brother 1, followed by Dick Cheney. They are all wearing the same noise canceling headphones that the Army Rangers were. Unknown Brother 1 starts playing the worst imaginable version of "Hail to the Chief" possible. The Democrats instantly fall to the floor screaming in Pain. Dick Cheney stands before the podium, watching his opponents writhing. Then he raises his hand, and Unknown Brother 1 stops playing. He puts it down, and Unknown Brother 1 starts playing again, as Cheney gloats with evil glee. Then he puts his hand up, and Unknown Brother 1 stops.)

Dick Cheney- I can make this stop, anytime I want to. All I need is a little cooperation, and everything will be all right. (he opens up his briefcase, and takes out a pile of papers).
Now, there's some business we need to take care of. Let's see, lets start off with some no-bid contracts to Halliburton, and some friends of ours, then we can talk about the war in Iraq, and-

(Fade out)

The End

(Legal Disclaimer- This entry is purely fictional. It is in no way meant to represent real happenings or events in the life of the Marsalis family, and should not be construed as such. This is just me having a little fun. )