A Start Cools

I can’t think how to continue Tally. I drafted via notes and daydreams. I added a few hundred (unposted) words more. When I reread the piece, the start isn’t the right start and I’m afraid of how the story might end. Not that anything terrible will happen to Tally or Carl, but that maybe nothing much will happen. Carl goes to Montana, if you want to know, and returns. But Tally is an unsure girl. She could take Carl’s dreams for her own, as easily as she could turn twenty-two and still be on her mom’s couch Saturday afternoons. The drinking was a thing that never got too big. I think that’s what is keeping me from cutting Tally loose: she hasn’t let anything get too big yet. I’d like to know what might happen if she allows a part of her life to get too big.

Right now Tally reminds me of two other stories I wrote a few years ago. Totally different characters and situations, but a similar process, a feeling that I wanted to tell too much, turn over too many rocks, open too many closet doors and check dusty shelves. I finished those two pieces with gritted-teeth determination because my previous M.O. for unwieldy starts (any start, really) was to abandon the file and preserve the idea it would have been great. But those two stories, one about a woman named Laine, and the other about a young man named David, went on and on, the latter topping out at forty single-spaced pages. Cutting to nineteen pages did nothing but give me practice.

I don’t want Tally to turn into another weedy piece. I want to make her character. I have an affection for her, a regular girl who might not go anywhere. The world is full of regular people who don’t go anywhere. I like them. But for me to write Tally well, I need to give the story a chunk of uninterrupted time. Maybe a couple of hours would get her off the ground. I can find those hours. But I’m also okay leaving the start to cool.

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