12:45:08 pm on
Wednesday 24 Jul 2024

Once Upon a Time
AJ Robinson

How many stories start with “Once Upon a Time”? Usually a classic fairy tale, but, otherwise, not so much these days. It’s considered too much of a cliché to use now.

Kicking off a story is not easy.

As an author, I try unique ways to kick off my books. With my time travel fantasy, Worst Date, Greatest Adventure, I chose to do what’s called in medias res, a Latin expression that translates as “in the middle of things.” In storytelling, it’s a technique where the teller drops the reader into the middle of the story.

A problem modern writers face is that audiences, today, have no patience for setting the stage, with a tale. Look at classic movies from decades ago. The story slowly builds to a powerful resolution.

Could Casablanca or Gone with the Wind be made today, told the same way? No, they’d need some big kickoff, a truly earth-shattering opening scene before they settled down to tell their story. Then similar scenes peppered throughout the film to keep the audience glued to their seats.

In Worst Date, Greatest Adventure, I had Arthur, the main male protagonist, start back in time. He kept a journal to tell of his adventure. Then he’d flashback to how he and Hazel got into their mess.

In my murder mystery, Murder on Gosnold Island, I didn’t do that. I told a linear story and tried to inject mystery and interesting scenes into the opening to keep reader attention until the murder took place. It didn’t work. My publisher rejected it as too slow an opening. So, I went back and changed it to a non-linear story; she’s considering the new version now.

Back to the time travel story. One of the plot-points I had to iron out was the travel interval. I needed Arthur and Hazel to go back to 1779. This meant I had to decide from whence they came.

I could have picked any recent year and just had them go two hundred-and-something years into the past, but I didn’t like that. Maybe it’s a result of my autism, but I simply had to have an even, so to speak, time change. I settled on 2029 so they would arc through 250 years of time.

That time arc seemed reasonable and, at the time, 2029, was into the future. In addition, I made a point of not making too many future references in the story. Again, I figured that’d be easy as the bulk of the story was going to take place in the past.

That was before we entered the era of Trump. Arthur and Hazel, while back in time would discuss the world of the present to which they would be returning, trying to bring their adopted daughter Abigail with them. Under normal circumstances that wouldn’t be a problem.

Given the racist and white supremacy agenda of Trump and his minions, the outright graft and corruption of his entire administration and their total rejection of science and facts I wasn’t sure what sort of world my characters were going to enter. As I finished book two of the trilogy and sent it off to my editor for her to butcher, I mean, to edit, I didn’t complete book three.

A critical plot points in, Worst Date, Greatest Adventure, was the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Technically I could have written the resolution shortly after election day back in November, but I had zero confidence in the willingness of T**** to concede, zero confidence in the courage of the Republicans to stand up to him and rein him in and I seriously questioned the bravery and nerve of Biden when it came to standing up to T****. There were also the issues of the courts, the governors and state officials, the media, the voters; well, you get the point. There were too many variables to consider.

I waited.

Some could argue that once the Electoral College voted I could write my ending. I didn’t have any faith in the outcome of that, either. There was still the matter of Congress counting and certifying the vote and, again, I had zero confidence in Pence and the devotion of Republicans to their oath of office and the Constitution.

Given the events of that terrible day, 6 January 2021, even though they did ultimately accept Biden as winner, I held off on writing more of my story. On Inauguration Day, I watched as Joe and Kamala sworn in and I felt such joy, relief and pride to see them take the reins of our government; I laughed to see T**** slink off to Florida like the craven little coward he is!

Still, didn’t write my ending. No, it wasn’t until I saw Joe and Jill walk into the White House and the doors close behind them that I sat down at my computer. I had Lisa Davenport, another character in Worst Date, Greatest Adventure, tell Arthur and Hazel that T**** had been a one-term president. Rather sad, don’t you think? More than two hundred years of peaceful transfers of power and now we face a man who sees himself as above the law and that reality is a function of his wants and desires.

What still worries me, still preys on my mind and haunts my dreams, is the future. Once upon a time I had confidence in the stability of America; that is gone now. I wonder what the next two and four years hold.

Will the Republicans sweep back into power in 2022? Will they completely hamstring Biden, allowing T***** or one of his minions to win in 2024? People keep saying that it’s over for the Republicans; that they can’t recover from this mess and that it looks like T***** is going to fracture the party.

Sorry, folks, I don’t buy it for a second. How many times have we heard the exact same thing? What of that Blue Tsunami that was supposed to give the Democrats total control of Congress? Not only did Mitch, Lindsey and Susan not lose, all by landslides!

Don’t tell me the republicans are done. I fully expect them to take back Congress, completely, in 2022. At this point, is there anything that’ll stop them? Some people say the voters will never forgive them for not supporting more relief for people or for not voting to convict T****, but it’s unlikely true.

All of it bull. One, the voters won’t remember or care; two, no one will remind the voters of that, you read that right, no one. You might think the Democrats would make endless election advertisements on that topic, but, no, they won’t.

I don’t know why, but they won’t; the media won’t bring it up, either. The 2022 election will be about Democrats spending too much, not doing enough to help people, destroying the economy and jobs, Joe Biden being a socialist communist bent on taking our guns and Bibles and Hunter Biden. So goes the story of politics in America.

Into the past for the sake of sanity.

I’m left to wonder just what sort of world my characters will be facing. Maybe I should change the ending and have them decide to stay in the Eighteenth Century. They might just be safer back then!

Combining the gimlet-eye of Philip Roth with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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