2020-09-07T17:25:27-04:00

GANS and the Future of American Fiction

GANS and the Future of American Fiction

Generative adversarial networks (GANS) can create human images almost indecipherable from actual images. Below I detail how creative writers and students of media studies can benefit from this technology.

James McAdams | September 7, 2020

What are GANS? 

GANS (or generative adversarial networks) denote computerized processes that combine thousands of random pixels to create a uniquely new human face. You can find an infinite repository here, at This Person Does Not Exist.  You can read about the technology on this page; I won’t attempt to parse it. Instead, I’ll give some examples of “the people who do not exist”:

GANS of little girl

A GANS-generated image of a young girl.

GANS image of young woman with daughter

GANS-generated image of young woman.

GANS image of middle-aged Hispanic women

GANS-generated image of woman.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I call these pictures GANS, although GANS (“generative adversarial networks”) refers solely to the process of generating them. But GANS make sense to me, because it differentiates them from PhotoShop. In Photoshop, you take a real image and alter it. There is no real image here, or rather there are billions of “real” pixel recombined into something new. Think Terminator-2  or Her. Think of “The Singularity” here. It’s creepy, but there are uses for authors. 

Three Ways GANS Help us Write Fiction

They provide visual aides.

As I’ve written about a lot in this blog, my novel consists of a large number of characters in a FL rehab. In some cases, these characters are hazy. GANS provide a great answer here. I can recycle through pictures for hours and then a magical click occurs, and I will “recognize” my character. The third image on the right above, picturing a middle-aged woman of Hispanic descent, automatically registered as Abdaliz. Abdaliz is one of the older staff in my novel, a kindly, charitable, exhausted woman who takes in addicts as her children. She “looks” exactly like that character. 

They let us use show the reader pictures of our characters without getting sued.

As literature becomes more digital and multi-media, more and more books are embracing graphics. We no longer just have text to work with. However, most pictures are protected from us by copyright or fair use legislation. In my case, in which I’m writing a prison memoir based on real people, HIPAA (or whatever) would never let me get away with it. But there isn’t protection for GANS, because they a) either don’t exist; or b) have no legal rights if they do. 

They provide a visual shorthand for characters.

As humans, we think we can infer things from their appearance. In my literature classes, I often provide students with 5 GANS and ask them to write a page describing that person without conferring with others. It’s amazing how often we’re all “certain” about a GAN: that the woman in yoga pants lives with many cats; that a man with a grey mustache and smart eyes is an engineer; that the woman in the middle above is a painter who emigrated from Eastern Europe. She was a real assignment and 12/20 of us indicated she was some form of artist. The level of consensus is astonishing. 

Faces have inspired writers since our ancestors wrote on caves. Many writers I know work in coffee cafes or libraries, explaining, like Tolstoy, that the faces motivate them. Like them, I’ve often found people on social media or online dating sites in whom I “recognize” a fictional character. I meet their real-world Doppelganger. GANS are certainly creepy, but ethically I feel less guilty using them, since there is no real person to betray. As David Bowie said, “Face the Change.” 

 

 

2020-09-07T16:57:56-04:00

A Writer’s Diary, Version 2020

A Writer’s Diary, Version 2020

Dostoevsky’s A Writer’s Diary as inspiration for my own diary, which we call blogs nowadays. 

James McAdams | August 26, 2020

In the 1870s, desperate to earn money to pay gambling debts, my hero Fyodor Dostoevsky published a serial log of essays, news clippings, editorials, tabloid gossip, and notes on his works-in-progress in the governing St. Peterburg newspaper. These notes later became the novels The Demons, The Idiot, The Insulted and the Injured, and The Gambler.

I’m going to do the same here, to demonstrate how insane and ridiculous writer’s draft books (or draft apps) are. Or at least this writer’s. This is my writer’s diary. In order to sustain the prevailing atmosphere of confusion, zaniness, dissociation, anxiety, and monomania that surrounds any writer (or again maybe just this writer) in the process of writing a long thing, I’m going to forego contextualizing (or editing) these assembled notes and drag them straight over from the Google Keep, where my novel lives, syncing across seven devices. However, I will remind you of the general shape of the novel, viz. it’s a prison memoir, told by someone (me!) imprisoned for manslaughter and pharmaceutical fraud while working at a nefarious rehab facility in Delray, and tells the story of the people there, especially the woman he loved/killed, Sadonna. This is something that happens all the time: cf. “The Florida Shuffle.” 

James McAdams, A Writer’s Diary

Notes, Themes, and Observations

  • major theme predictive analytics guys in the nerd cave (20s/mid 30s, certificates from online academy, indoctrinated into the allure of large data) VS. home health aides (what I did): people on the ground who understand psychology, narrative, quality. In between, the director, finishing her Ph.D. on psychiatry on? neoliberal surveillance?
  • Theme song: Saturnine Smashing pumpkins, the chorus of “we go into your minds” showing the Nerd Cave and the various clients, make in Adobe Animator?
  • Abando
    Scholarship for rehab people
    Guy in industry gets pulled over by cop who thanks him for saving his life
    Swinton ave in delray. Pharrma and sober homes feed each other, like A Scanner Darkly
    The trio: fentanyl, heroin, and crack.
    Fentanyl is in autocorrect!
    Flying Rehab sign at intersections?
    Narcanning
  • Sadonna=venn diagram of Sofie in Stateless, Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted, Claudia Gator in Magnolia, Ally Sheedy (“dandruff chick”) in The Breakfast Club, Julia Roberts in HOMECOMING
Melora Waters screen capture from the movie Magnolia

Melora Waters as Claudia Gator in Magnolia, in the best performance of the 90s.

Online quotes and articles

  • Quote: “Most young addicts I knew didn’t get funerals with a viewing; they were burned to bits in furnaces and, as ashes, thrown into the ocean or tossed to the wind from a mountaintop. I wonder, if I had the opportunity to look on my dead friends one last time—if I could see them as they were in the end, as pale bodies—whether that might startle me into something like closure.” Colten Wooten.
  • Everyone constipated all the time, what kind of plumbing problems, because of weird addiction to Immodium and anti-diarrhea medication
  • Tfs chapters start with media headlines about opioid epidemic… All proven wrong by narrative.
    “All junkies start with their parents medicine cabinet”  vs. Sadonna: no my parents never had anything. Etc.

Excerpt

  • Excerpt: “Honestly? Best part of the job is teaching them things. Addicts tend to think everything is harder and never learn. So teaching someone in their 30s how to do the wash, or someone who’s 50 how to check a fusebox, it’s like rewarding. I guess like having kids but I can’t have them. Other day I taught Billy how to use the oven to reheat pizza. Dude’s 45 and he never used the oven before. They’re all so scared of trying new thing, y know? I think addiction has a lot to do with being scared, like routine, shutting down life until it’s manageable: drinking a bottle of whiskey and smoking a pack of cigarettes every night watching a Marlins game. I know we can’t say it, but there’s something there….I can sort of see how it would be appetizing. Compared to all the drama and bullshit in my life. Especially with guys. Here’s one now, I have to take this, later James.”

 

 

2020-08-19T16:28:42-04:00

The Florida Shuffle: Excerpt

The Florida Shuffle: Excerpt

James McAdams | 08-18-2020

What I learned working at Deathray was that addicts tend to have massive black holes of knowledge and common sense we assume for most people by the age of say 30. Some of these are funny, some poignant, some tragic. Here are the ones I remember best:

  • Artie, a stand-up comedian from Newark, 38, who didn’t know you could remove the pillowcase from the pillow, and thus had never washed his pillowcase (or sheets) because he thought it would weigh too much for what we called the “washer-dryer-washer machine.”
  • Jason, an Emimem-looking dude from Memphis, who walked ten miles each day, who never realized the sun set in the west and rose in the east. “But you mean always, James?” He was aghast.
  • Amanda, 28, a gymnastics teacher from Asheville, who informed me: “I used to have a Tercel, this cute blue guy I called Charlie. He blew up in the parking lot of a Blockbusters. Apparently he had no oil…I don’t know where it went. The police officer gave me all this shit about why I didn’t put oil in it. He’s an obvious incel.” 
  • Klissa (41, Alabama) told Abdaliz she never knew you could just push the mute button when the smoke detector did a battery chirp thing. She’d always ripped the entire smoke detector out of the wall and stacked them in the closet for years until the last worst fire burned her daughter before she came down here.
  • Bobby didn’t believe Abdaliz when she told him cigarettes were stimulants and that was one reason why smoking a half a pack before bed kept him up. “They relax me, how can they be a stimulant, girl?” 
  • There was a dude named Juanito, he lasted only a week, who didn’t use light bulbs because he swore his dad had been electrocuted installing one.
  • Bodey, who’d never been out of Baltimore, just learned that radio stations change based on location.
  • O.C. thought that he had never loved because nobody had ever loved him, whereas in fact it was because he never loved anyone (I was to learn this too: stay tuned).
  • Malloree “watered” her plants, the “recovery plants” we made everyone cultivate to show how all organisms are primed to recover, with Dr. Pepper.
  • Finally, we, meaning Abdaliz, Freaky Fred, myself, other staff, and our nebulous bosses, were soon to learn that we were under investigation, and, further, that one of our clients, Sadonna, my Sadonna, had been reporting on us since her arrival the weekend of July 4. 
2020-09-07T17:01:00-04:00

Barren Magazine: New Issue Release

Barren Magazine: New Issue Release

Online literary journals like Barren Magazine offer many opportunities to give back to the community.

James McAdams | August 10, 2020

Over the weekend, the U.S.-based literary journal I work for released it’s 15/16th issue, a double issue with the theme of “Fallow/Unrest.” “Unrest” made me feel proud to be a part of something larger, an increasingly rare feeling in America these days. At least for me. And not just America, speaking of which:

 

List of countries represented in Barren issue 15

Tweet from Barren Magazine’s editor Jason Ramsey.

 

What I Learned at Barren Magazine

I joined the Barren masthead in October of 2018 as Flash Fiction Editor. The same cliches they say about teaching, i.e. that the teacher always learns more than the student, also applies to the world of editing

Recognizing Your Own Writing Flaws

In my practice as an editor, I’ve become aware of a plethora of blind spots, errors, infelicities, and crushingly banal plots I’ve since removed from my writing. For instance, it’s almost impossible for me to read something without dialogue. That’s the way to make your story stand out. I hate to repeat “show, don’t tell” but I guess I am. Secondly, witty titles and clever jokes don’t work. Don’t try to be funny unless you’re certain you are. Finally, childhood memories and dreams are only interesting to the writer, not the reader. I’ve cut all of this out of my work.

The Morality of Editing

But the more interesting result of my almost-two years of editing involves morality. Why would editing exercise before-dormant ethical muscles? The answer has its origins in my observations in college writing workshops. Most of the students only paid attention the day their work was getting critiqued and didn’t offer anything in return in the form of critiques or feedback to others. This is simply being selfish, or weak: lacking the ability to climb over the wall of self and rest comfortably in the gardens of other minds and psyches. Even reading something you’re not into, you still have the ability to concentrate and try to lean into that world and those characters the way you should lean into the world of your family, always trying to see the best in them. The best editors are mind-readers, in a sense.

Writing Good Rejection Letters

Writing rejection letters is another prominent feature of editing, which I discussed before. I’m not proud of much, but I am proud that in my almost-two years I’ve replaced form rejection letters with actual real person-to-person notes. Oddly enough, I receive more shows of appreciation and gratitude from authors receiving these personalized rejections than I do from authors whose work I accept.

If any of this sounds appealing to you, now is as good a time as ever to research online literary magazines/journals. Now being a good time because so many of us are still in lockdown. Editing isn’t the only skill, either. You could also volunteer as a social media manager, website designer, proofreader, or grant manager. You’ll become a better writer, you’ll meet amazing people from all across the world, and you’ll feel less alone. I recommend it as highly as I can recommend anything I’ve ever done. In the words of David Foster Wallace, “I wish you way more than luck.”

2020-08-11T17:27:07-04:00

“No Friend but the Mountains” Befriends Award Committees

No Friend but the Mountains Befriends Award Committees

James McAdams | July 22, 2020

Behrooz Bouchani’s No Friend but the Mountains has a lot more friends than when he wrote it under insane circumstances from Manus Regional Prison Centre in Papua, New Guinea between 2014-2018. The memoir detailing xenophobia, prison abuse, and Australia’s “border-industrial complex” (watch Stateless on Netflix) received the 2018 Victorian Prize for Literature (the Australian equivalent of the National Book Award), the 2018 Victorian’s Premier Prize for Nonfiction, and, in 2019, the Australian National Biography Award.

Behrouz Boochani virtually conferencing

Behrouz Boochani virtually participating in Sydney Writers Festival

So it’s, evidently, a great book, but what I’m interested in is the method of composition.

Behrooz wrote No Friend but the Mountains on his smartphone, sending lengthy .pdf’s to his translator and editors in secret; twice his phones were stolen, but nobody realized what was on them. Then he used WhatsApp, again, under concealment, to discuss edits, publications, and receive awards. This is very cool, and something I want to integrate into my novel The Florida Shuffle; or, My Summer in Rat Park II. 

As I discussed a month ago, the novel’s action is written in prison by the narrator, the Fake-Me. On a macro level, I was using Lolita to help me structure and plan this decision, but I also desired to invent something funny or weird or moving to make the prison environment part of the plot, so that you actually feel like the novel were being written in prison. The example of No Friend but the Mountains provides me with that, in the form of a smartphone writing process that gives me an arbitrary chapter ceiling of 1,000 words, which is the amount of text “I” (the fictional James McAdams) can text on his smartphone in the one hour a day he has access to it in the prison library.

Speaking of prison libraries, they’re fascinating! As detailed in Running the BooksAvi Steinberg chattily describes his months working as a librarian in a Boston prison. Upon reading it, I learned many interesting facts I’ll insert into my novel, among them:

  • Books are “fungible” in prison, meaning they have numerous purposes: as weapons, as stackable furniture, as plates, as toilet paper, places to rest phones for selfies, etc.
  • The most popular books in prison are, of course, Oprah’s Book Club, James Patterson, and Dan Brown, along with books on computer programming, starting small businesses, and GED study guides. The most popular? Machiavelli, because of Tupac.
  • Books aren’t just for reading, but for communication between prisoners who never see each other, for example those who are “dating,” or whatever we call that when both are imprisoned. So, these 21st-century Romeo and Juliets write little love letters, called “kites” in prison parlance, in the margins of random books. It’s fun to imagine something like a biography of Ronald Reagan written over in Sharpie’d super sexual messages with drawings of penises etc. by teenagers put away because of the War on Drugs he himself escalated.

So, now you’ll be happy to hear that I have a function for James McAdams in his made-up prison: a) to run the library; and b) to use confiscated smartphones to send daily chapters of 1,000 words to….someone. Who will that be? I haven’t gotten that far yet.

 

 

2020-08-11T17:27:58-04:00

What Al Bundy’s Glasses Teach Us About Recovery

Recovery and Al Bundy’s Glasses

James McAdams | July 17, 2020

In part II of my exploration of using 90’s comedies as orientation materials for my fake-world rehab, I’m going to look at what Al Bundy’s glasses teach us about recovery. In particular, the notion of clarity. Clarity is sort of a Janus-faced notion in recovery. On the one hand, most addicts yearn for a golden age of clarity obscured and concealed by damaged brain cells and blackouts; on the other hand, addiction obviously ruins lives, with the sad concomitant fact that the life you see clearly after, or during, recovery is apt to be a complete disaster. And this of course operates as an obstacle to continued recovery: the challenges of dealing with bad credit, health problems, fucked-up relationships, family discord, and so forth, often leads to recidivism. Thus enter Married with Children’s anti-hero dad (one of the first popular “bad guys” predating the golden age of television), my hero, Al Bundy: seller of female shoes, scorer of four touchdowns in one game, gusto fan of Big ‘Uns’ and Psycho Dad, leader of NO “MA’AM.”

As usual, Al Bundy teaches via negativa, as the Scholastics would write: his conduct teaches us what not to do. In the 1991 episode “If I Could See Me Now,” Kelly and Bud convince Al to get glasses because his vision impairs his one escape (cf. drugs!), televisual addiction. However, after obtaining his glasses, Al’s bummed upon his return to his house. What he sees now with 20/20 clarity disturbs and frightens him. As Kierkegaard or Hunter S. Thompson would say, he perceives his life with “fear and loathing.” In shocked despair, he slowly registers the abyss that his life has become. For the first time in years, he truly understands how loathsome and provincial his Chicago home is, the chintziness of the sagging orange couch, how bratty and obnoxious his children look. “My life is…over,” he laments. In the final coup de grace, Al picks up a glamour photo of his red-headed, bouffant-coiffed wife. Finally recognizing what his wife (and his life), truly look like, Al, in a destructive rage reminiscent of Samson, stamps on his glasses and retreats to the couch. Grinning, his hand down his pants, he surveys the beauty of his grey, fuzzy, and blurry world, and all is right in the world. “Al Bundy is back,” he declares.

Here, Al’s decision to destroy his glasses and embrace the fog of his life symbolizes the addict’s desire to equally make life foggy and live in a blur. The problems people in recovery encounter will probably not appear in the guise of obnoxious children or emasculating redheads, but the challenge is the same: to love clarity despite its rough edges, to look life in the face and not blink.

So, ask yourself: what would Al Bundy not do?

 

 

2020-08-11T17:29:03-04:00

Hurricane Fun Centers Will Improve Evacuation Rates

Hurricane Fun Centers Will Improve Evacuation Rates

James McAdams | July 13, 2020

One of the plot points for my novel about a rehab facility in Delray are hurricane fun centers. During the hurricane, most residents and staff of the rehab facility lose track of one another desperately going to different shelters while the orange radar blob proceeds implacably towards the east coast of FL. Some stay with family, some squeal northwest in old Corollas and Cavaliers, some hunker down in the motel’s recreation center, some, so desperate and overwhelmed, are “paralyzed by analysis” and just say where they are until they die. What we need is a motive to evacuate, something to draw people to the shelters: what we need are hurricane fun centers.

There could be a hurricane center for Trump-supports and Trump-haters, vegetarians and doe-hunters, child-friendly families and nightclubs with dark closets for kinky singles. One for Star Trek fans, one for True Crime fans, one for Fantasy Football fans. The novel features a lowly clerk named Donderback who envisions the idea of hurricane fun centers.

image of hurricane shelter in Florida

These people would be having more fun if they were at a hurricane fun center!

 

Here is an example of Hurricane Fun Centers:

“In the decades since, Donderback’s four examples (known as “Donderback’s Quadrant”) have exploded across the nation. There are now 1,000 different Donderback Shelter Convention Models (DSCM’s), ranging from NRA affiliations to Cosplay enthusiasts to religious sects to various cult and/or alternative fact communities organized around aliens, Scientology, or neo-Luddites. Evacuation rates across the country have risen from a P-D. (pre-Donderback) rate of 29% to a robust and gleaming 67% in the last year reported (2189). To this datum we must ascribe, following Donderback’s hunch, the primitive and sobering fact that the central problem of human existence is the feeling of being, and dying, alone.”

Like a lot of things in my novel, this started as a joke and now seems like a really good idea to me!

2020-08-11T17:30:04-04:00

The Florida Shuffle: Novel Excerpt

The Florida Shuffle: Novel Excerpt

James McAdams| June 30, 2020

…speaking of resolutions, my philosophy with Google Reviews is it’s best to be grateful. Especially with the now emerging Google Personals Reviews. All my GPRs are 5 stars, elaborate narratives that make people tingle inside, I imagine. For this reason, during times of crisis such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, I submit reviews that take the form of personal notes: 

“Dear Mr. Clevinger. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your patience meeting with us today. My husband and I will forever be saddened, but appreciate the way you handled Mom’s wake! Go see Dr. Clevinger at {{{Clevinger & Sons Funeral Services}}}!” ~Nia Gamberd (“Your Always”)

“Adios Guillermo! thank you so much for fixing my car tire at {{{Firestones Tires}}}.”~Nia Gamberd (“Keep Truckin’!”)

“Hallo! Tracy, your advice at {{{Ambrosia Shores}}} was beyond superb. I’ve saved all your guided meditations. No alcohol for three months!!!!”~Nia. Gonzalez-Gamberd (“Salve! Ye dumb hearts!”)

Mark, however, said that being “nice” was stupid. When the pandemic started, everyone joked about there being either a baby boom or a divorce boom. Four weeks in, it was clear Mark and I were in the divorce boom. “If you want to help,” he said, “tell them when something sucks. All Tracy did was get you addicted to suboxone and exercise.”

“You didn’t care when you fucked her,” I said. We were parked outside the newest rehab in Delray, my seventh in three years.

I met him at the trunk and strapped the Hello Kitty bookbag to my shoulders; I’d learned how to pack lightly for these things.

“Try not to die,” I muttered.

“Mark Gamerd is a cheater, a violator of customs, a stain upon this race, he Googles rape terms,” I wrote, and clicked upload. This was called processing according to the rehabmetricians here. I logged off the Public Computer, a bulbous Dell, in the office. The rehabmetricians squirmed on beanbags in the office, quoting South Park and playing Cards Against Humanity, walls of monitoring beeping around them.

“Going for a walk,” I told them.

I walked to the marina on the beach. Along the flanking pier, pinned stars above all us small things. I had become a person I despised, but I was still full of hope: you become a monster once you stop noticing you’re a monster. So that was something.

I considered doing something to symbolize my renewal, like skinnydipping, or heaving my ring into the green water like in The Awakening. My heart swelled with the force of resolution; I imagined all whole world’s aggregated New Years and Birthdays and Anniversary Resolutions floating through the lubricated sky like Crayola balloons, rising and converging. I was not alone in this. There was the path of sacrifice, I reflected, and the path of care. Since sacrifice had gotten me here, I resolved henceforth (for the fiftieth time since I was fourteen) to live the path of care, to love wisely: those 5-star reviews would be for myself now.

2020-08-11T17:31:00-04:00

The Greatness of Seinfeld’s “The Opposite”

The Greatness of Seinfeld’s “The Opposite”

James McAdams | June 28,2020

My favorite TV character of all time is George Constanza, and his greatest episode is “The Opposite.” In “The Opposite,” George a stocky, slow-witted, balding, unemployed 30-something man who lives with his parents, laments:

“Why did it all turn out like this for me? I had so much promise. I was personable, I was bright. Oh, maybe not academically speaking, but … I was perceptive. I always know when someone’s uncomfortable at a party. It became very clear to me sitting out there today, that every decision I’ve ever made, in my entire life, has been wrong. My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.”

Spurred on by a form of resignation and fatalism probably common to most addicts, George decides that henceforth he will “do the opposite”—reasoning that since every impulse and intuition he has about the world is wrong, he “will do the opposite.” As he tells Jerry and Elaine at Monk’s Cafe, “I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite.” Following this re-birth, George goes on to get a beautiful girlfriend, a great job with the Yankees, and moves out of his parents’ house. In rehab parlance, George is now in recovery, until he next episode. 

One of the gags for my fictitious rehab in Delray, modeled on the “Derek Jeter Rehab Facility Delray” (I won’t be able to use that name for legal reasons, I imagine), is for clients to watch this episode in orientation. I started thinking this was a funny gag, like giving them all dying plants in their rooms to save, but now, like George Costanza, what at first seemed vapid and asinine now seems profound. “The Opposite” is the most hopeful episode in the history of TV, and messages of hope are requisite in recovery. 

If Seinfeld was a “show about nothing,” does this make my work-in-progress a “novel about nothing”? I’d be okay with that. 

2020-08-11T17:32:05-04:00

The Florida Shuffle: Scene Outline

The Florida Shuffle: Scene Outline

James McAdams | June 19, 2020.

I’m an avid fan of a remarkable YouTube channel called “Behind the Curtain” which explores the writing process of various successful TV shows and movies. These are paradoxically entitled “How I Wrote Fight Club,” “How I Wrote Ladybird,” etc. These are structured as seamlessly edited audio interviews with creators with visual scenes from the show/movie emphasizing the interview points. It’s a really cool way to learn how artists create, design, plot, and compose their work. Recently I watched “How I Wrote Mr. Robot” with Sam Esmail, who explained that whenever the show planning got out of hand (whether for a scene, an episode, a season, or the complete four-season show run), he simply takes out a bar napkin and writes down the ten things that he needs to have happen; he calls them “beats.” In high school we called them outlines. 

This helped me during a stressful time writing The Florida Shuffle; or, My Life in Rat Park II. I’ve never published anything over 5,000 words, and actually for the past two years have been writing almost exclusively flash fiction under 1,000 words. But then I got to a point when I had a directory of files for the novel exceeding 40,000 words, and I felt like I was in that larger-than-life labyrinth from The Shining. I didn’t know where I was in the novel or where it was going, it was just all strands, tendrils, moments of dialogue written on my phone, portraits saved on Instagram that remind me of what characters look like. 

Image of the labyrinth from Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick's The Shining

The awesome labyrinth from Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Anyway, I followed Esmail’s advice and made a ten-bullet page of all the things that needed to happen and feel happier. I call it The Florida Shuffle Scene Outline ….if you know SEO, yes, you know I just wrote that to satisfy “keyword phrase density.” Anyway, I thought I’d share!

  • #1: James meet Sadonna at rehab on this daily rounds. She’s just moved in after the overdose of Tara. She has no roommate because __why? (She’s heard of the opioid epidemic.) 
  • #2: Introduction to James, Freaky Fred, Abdaliz in the office. Set up rehab scandal, Silk Road, urine tests, stealing pills. Relationship and history between three. 
  • #3: “Delray” as background + for how James got this job. Adjunct professor. Always wanted to write, had heard about the opioid epidemic. 
  • #4: Saturday Lunch scene: James declares love for Sadonna. Background. End in her apartment.
  • #5: Interlude. Via camera monitors and biomonitoring apps, the staff sees what the 10 clients are doing (yoga, fantasy sports, dating apps, rearranging furniture, etc.)
  • #6: Police show up, acting on tips that “the Florida Shuffle” is happening here. What are charges. Anonymous tip? They ask about what happened to Tara? 
  • #7: Staff talk to creepy boss (Mr Robot?): tells them to destroy all traces and find tipster etc. 
  • #8: FF learns Sadonna is tipper, we learn Sadonna knew Tara and moved down to find out about the place….BUT she’s not police. Wants to write about it? 
  • #9: FF kills Sadonna via fentanyl Silk Road etc. 
  • #10: Beginning of prison memoir. Prison library. Sadonna’s ghost there telling him confession is good for the soul? (Hamlet?) She will stay with him if he writes, but will leave when he is done. So he’s in Penelope situation….he NEVER WANTS TO FINISH WRITING!!!
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