Friday, July 25, 2008

Try, try again

The following are ideas for a few stories I was considering writing for a school assignment in fourth grade—but ultimately decided against. What made me think that these were unsuitable plotlines compared to, say, the nonadventures of a dim-witted punk Valley girl and her motorcycle gang? That's something we may never know. But the exciting part here is that we get to see actual ACTION! Or, uh, the outline of action anyway.

Plot Treatment #1:

A. My friends

1. Theme – If at first you don't suceed, try, try again

2. Plot – My friends and I are stuck under the water

3. Characters – My friends and I

4. Setting – The Beach, underwater, summer

We are swimming and suddenly Jessica is pulled underwater. We all follow. We can breathe! INCREDIBLE! We find all the wonders of the sea. We collect shells, see fish, make faces at sharks—everything! We want to get home but none of us can find a way out. Ty finds a cave. GREAT. It leads us to a fierce whirlpool. The one that brought us down here. We should try to swim back up. No luck. Stand under, Katie says. It pulls us up. AIR! FREEDOM! WONDERFUL.

So, how exactly is the theme of that story "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again"? If at first you don't succeed at swimming up a fierce whirlpool, try, try to stand under it and it will probably spit you out on dry land? It seems to me the theme was more along the lines of "Being able to breathe underwater is totally friggin' awesome!!!" Which—let's be honest—is a way better theme, although taunting sharks is maybe not the best idea, gill-like capabilities or not.

This book idea was definitely born out of my fervent childhood desire to be a mermaid. It was a desire that had probably lessened in intensity by fourth grade, but you can be sure I had spent many, many a former bath playing with my Sea Wees and/or pretending I was Daryl Hannah. Sometimes, as a rare treat, my mom would even let me pour some salt in the bathwater à la Madison in Splash! In reality, I've never really liked putting my head underwater. But if I could BREATHE while doing so? Hellooo, wonders of the sea!

Plot Treatment #2:

A. The Bikini Summer, Off at Camp, Beach Ball Baby, Perfect, Friends

I think those are all possible titles for the story. My vote's with The Bikini Summer. Nothing hotter than fourth graders in bikinis. Yeow! (Beach Ball Baby totally sounds like a Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movie.)

1. Theme – Things aren't always as bad as they seem

2. Plot – Four girls are sent to camp and become an unlikely group

3. Characters – Four girls

4. Setting – At camp, summer

At Camp
['Scuse? No Bikini Summer??? I'm just going to pretend I didn't see this. La la la . . . ]

Ami Steinburger – beautiful, perfect, spoiled
Joy Linlar
– funny, a bit plump, short
Carrie Trailor – bossy, leader, tall
Barbie Jenson – hates name, hates water, talks a lot

For some unknown reason, I was obsessed with the name Joy Linlar (???). Don't be surprised if J.L. pops up in another story.

Girls try to sneak away from camp. By accident a goat dog named Fifi follows. The girls are caught. Barbie gets away. The only way out is by Ami's dad's boat. Barbie can't do it. She can't control the boat. She is tossed overboard in the middle of the lake. Thank god for life-jackets. She finds that water isn't so bad. Phone calls to the other girls' parents. They don't know where Barbie is. They all are given a second chance. A soaked Barbie is lying in bed. She feels better and changes her name to Barb. Ami makes everyone stop calling Barb 'Beach Ball Baby'. Barb competes in swimming for the camp and comes in 2nd. Ami's drawings are printed. Joy

CRAP! That's it!!! What happens to Joy Linlar???

So, just to recap: We're back at camp, which is, as we all know, the perfect setting for a book. Why is this "unlikely group" trying to run away from such a perfect setting? And where are they planning on GOING? God only knows. Then that stupid goat DOG gets them caught! DAMN YOU, FIFI. And yet somehow Beach Ball Barbie manages to break free and steal Ami's dad's boat, which is inexplicably located on the camp grounds, and which she inexplicably has the keys to. Then she overcomes her fear of water by being THROWN OVERBOARD FROM AN OUT-OF-CONTROL BOAT. Not only does this seemingly traumatic event—which leaves her stranded in the middle of a lake, mind you—cure her aquaphobia (and, it would appear, her depression), it magically makes her an amazing swimmer able to kick the asses of other children who have probably been swimming for longer than, say, a week. Oh, and she changes her name to Barb. Getting thrown from a boat is totally empowering, guys. She probably joins the Olympic swim team directly after camp ends. Go Barb!

But let's not forget about the other girls. I like how they're all given a "second chance" EVEN THOUGH THEY STILL HAVEN'T FOUND BARBIE AND SHE COULD BE FLOATING FACE-DOWN IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LAKE FOR ALL THEY KNOW. And there's the whole matter of, you know, the hijacked boat. But whatevs. Those girls deserve another shot at, like, NOT running away from camp. Ami Steinburger, you have some drawings to publish. Joy Linlar and Carrie Trailor . . . I don't know, but I hear that you're a bit plump and bossy, respectively, so I'm sure you have many talents as well. And if you don't? Whatever. Things aren't always as bad as they seem. I'm sure that's exactly what Barbie was thinking when she was in the middle of the lake, dodging a runaway boat and trying to figure out how to swim. Oh no, that's right, what she was thinking was, "This water . . . why, it isn't bad at all! In fact, I think I kind of LOVE swimming! Call me Barb, everyone. Call me fucking BARB."

Next is the outline for the book I actually ended up writing, which I'm sure you'll agree is TOTALLY INFERIOR to The Bikini Summer.

Plot Treatment #3:

A. My brother and his friends

1. Theme – Young people have good imaginations

As opposed to crotchety old 10-year-olds like me?

2. Plot – Four little boys create their own land in outer space

3. Characters – Four little boys and me

4. Setting – In outer space, daytime

Noah, Jeremy, Josh, Will
[my brother, who was on the verge of turning four when I wrote this], and me. They dream us into outer space. We have to get back in time for dinner. The boys are fighting over who should be the king of our new-found planet. I have a headache. Jeremy, Josh, and Noah's mothers are at home. They wonder where we are. Josh finally realizes we are lost. I find we can dream ourselves back. All of us. Noah wants to stay. We force him to get us back. Now we're in a jungle. We go through all of it again. The North Pole. Brrr. It's cold and Noah gives in.

Sorry, but BO-RING. Who wants to read about four-year-old boys in the North Pole when we can be reading about Joy Linlar? In a bikini? At camp? I hear she's funny . . .

NEXT TIME: A peek at my fourth grade journal, which contains a fair amount of Reagan-bashing. For serious!


Anonymous said...

The Bikini Summer: best title of a nonexistent YA novel EVER.

zanne said...

I might still have the notebook I used to write down some of my story ideas. I'm going to look for it this weekend. I loved coming up with storylines and character names, but I never got around to writing the stories. I always wanted to write a murder mystery, but at 13 years old, I just didn't know enough about it (except what I saw on tv, of course).

gollygee said...

I think "CALL ME BARB" is the new "You GO GIRL!" :D

BadKat said...

For some reason, The Bikini Summer title reminds me of that Lauren Amborse movie "Psycho Beach Party".

My goodness you were nice to your brother! My brothers are messed up from the abuse my sister and I put them through!!

BadKat said...

I mean Lauren Ambrose

Kathryn said...

"The Bikini Summer" brought much silent laughter (I'm at work) and tears to my eyes. I only went to summer camp twice, and neither time was there a goat on the premises. I didn't know to be disappointed.

Call me BARB, bitches!

Desiree said...

ohmygod, i totally forgot about sea wees!!

zanne said...

My mom just called me at work to tell me that she found one of my old stories! It's called "Jamie's Babysitting Job" and she said it's basically a rip-off of the Babysitters Club! ha! I think that is hilarious. I don't remember writing it, but I used to love the name Jamie when I was younger, and of course the BSC was the coolest thing around. I can't wait to read it. I'm stopping by Thursday to pick it up.

Sada said...

Zanne, you know you might have to share...

zanne said...

Are you still thinking of doing guest bloggers?

My mom read me part of the story and we both started laughing. I can't wait to read it.

Linley said...

First of all, who are you kidding? You STILL want to be a mermaid, and I have the pictures to prove it.

Also, I'm thinking the Joy Linlar obsession was a premonition for one day having a friend named Linlard who would bring you joy.

Finally, the outerspace story sounds suspiciously similar to Explorers, which I may have seen about 300 times.

Oh, and @zanne: I totally have a babysitting story too.