Writing A Cry Among Men – The Novel has become this perfect imperfect journey. Writing, editing, rewriting and more editing have neared incessancy. And because I refuse to publish a disappointing representation of quality, I have yet to hand it off to an editor.
In the beginning, writers steal words outside of their own vocabulary or a style (I’ve done both without plagiarism) from well known produced or published writers but the focus always leads back to developing your own style, a voice with your name on it.
Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Elif Shafak, Paulo Coelho, Helen Oyeyemi and Patricia and Alana Raybon have enamored the book world with the way in which they use words to tell a story. In film, screenwriters such as Oliver Stone, Spike Lee, Aaron Sorkin and Quentin Tarantino all put an original spin on their work.
Seven screenplays later, most rewritten more than 10 times, a short and now a novel, I can assuredly say, I have developed a distinct style that I can call my own, one that I hope will gain a loyal following.
In A Cry Among Men, I show a snippet of the same scene in both the screenplay and novel formats. They are drastically different in format, length and wording but sub-textually, they are the same.
The presence of a woman who has no direct or obvious relevance to the story speaks very clearly to the fulminating hell that Don is in.
Screenplay (Semi-finalist – Final Draft, Big Break Contest)…
Don takes a seat next to HAPPY HOMELESS WOMAN feeding pigeons. Even in her state, life is good.
HAPPY HOMELESS WOMAN
Hi, you want some bread to feed the birds?
HAPPY HOMELESS WOMAN
What a beautiful day.
He took a seat next to a woman who had been feeding pigeons most of the day. Her name, Millicent Rodgers. Once a very wealthy socialite, she’d been without a home for nearly two years following a suspicious house fire, which occurred during her brutal divorce from a wealthy commodities trader. Though he was never implicated in the arson, the slithering bastard buried every asset they had in over thirty different shell corporations and left her penniless. She had no family. No dog. No cat. Her remaining friends were the alley rats. The diseased pigeons. She’d perfected tatterdemalion. All of her worldly effects were stuffed into one frail pull cart. Her dingy pink dress, once red, drooped over her cramped shoulders. Black and gray Ralph Lauren mules were cracked with heels run over towards the inside. Her dirty blonde hair was unkempt, partially matted, the rest straggly giving in to the appearance of head lice. Periodically, she’d make her way into a drug store, not for meds, but to steal red nail polish; a desperate attempt to make herself feel pretty again or to hide her dirty jaundice colored fingernails or recapture her dignity. Nothing was worse, though, than the distinct smell of a combined mixture of dirt and musty urine that clogged the air around her.
Her circumstances, a place the world routinely views as destitute and hopeless, didn’t hide an incredible sparkle in her eyes or the peace surrounding her.
“Hi,” she said to Don with a warm smile.
“Hello,” he said.
“Do you want some bread to feed the birds?”
“No, thank you.”
She looked away, closed her eyes and softly nosed the air. A smile appeared again. And the twinkle in her eyes grew brighter. “What a beautiful day God has given us. Did you realize that no matter what kinds of blows life throws at us, God will always be with us?”
Boggled by her introspection, Don stared at her without a response. That was okay by Millie, as her friends used to affectionately call her.
“God hears our cries,” she said, “and when it’s time, his angels will come swarming down from the heavens to rescue us.”
In a blink, Don had found himself face-to-face with life’s perfect irony. Relevance had trumped irrelevance.
Who knew but God that my two obsessive years of writing A Cry Among Men – The Novel would further develop my style, my authentic voice as a writer.