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By ana (Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 08:25:16 AM EST) Danny Cobb, WFCX, WFC (all tags)
it wasn't very good.

In which the author tells how a story came to be.


I had a lot of trouble with this challenge; it's a great idea, the big man who makes things happen, though exactly how nobody seems to be able to tell.

While everybody else went for the supernatural or pan-dimensional, I was pretty firmly committed to realistic fiction.

I've posted my first two (partial) drafts (link), which shared the notion, perhaps echoing Little Drummer Girl or some other John LeCarré novel, that he's somehow in intelligence (because it's the closest thing in real life to the Deus ex machina). Whether he's gone rogue or not is an open question.

Each of these stories (and the one I finally submitted) were dashed off on a Sunday afternoon, though I thought about the problem a lot over the weeks that the challenge was open. One of them was written in the airport in Raleigh, NC.

And so it was probably because I'd re-read the challenge story several times, and written the beginnings of two of my own, that I stumbled over the notion of Danny Cobb as tall tale hero, somebody everybody's heard of, if only a little, who haunts the corners of the eyes but is never seen directly.

Instead of setting it in the inevitable recriminations and blaming the innocent that follows a successful operation, I hit on the notion of setting Danny Cobb against a natural disaster.

One notable such was the obliteration on the night of July 9, 1984 of the town of Barneveld, Wisconsin, by an F5 tornado (the really really big ones). Cue the bored shopgirl-as-victim, hoodlums that are the small-town bigshots.

Who are scared to the point of loss of control of bodily functions by their Uncle Danny Cobb, who is the Real Deal among bigshots.

Who doesn't hate it when the paperwork they've poured their heart and soul into vanishes into the night, sucked up into the clouds to come down in some farmer's field, 300 miles downrange?

As 256 pointed out, the reader, or at the very least the writer, needs to know how it is that the legendary Danny Cobb happens to be visiting his hometown on the morning after its last night on earth.

What have we learned from this? I'd like to say not to put things off til the final weekend, but pffft! Like that's gonna happen. Perhaps to think more about what somebody who's not inside my own head would be getting, from the words that are actually on the page, yo. Oh, and… let it rest a bit, come back to it cold, and then decide if it's worth fixing.
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And behold... | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
"everybody else" by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #1 Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 10:09:48 PM EST
You say that as if there were a whole lot of other entries :) And given the tight voting, I don't think you can claim that it wasn't all that good (unless it was a bad crop overall, and I think the consensus is that it wasn't).

I think it's funny that I had this whole debate with Scrymarch about whether your story was in fact supernatural, but I explained my biases there. Yours was just a freaky natural happening.

Danny Cobb's appearance is sort of an unexplained freaky happening of its own, though. And my quibble is that he's not quite present enough, despite the palpable effects of his appearance. He's almost like a shadow cast on a wall that implies a person, but you don't see the actual person. He's still a "big man who makes things happen, though exactly how nobody seems to be able to tell." You get that vibe in the story, but it's just a vibe.

I read the original challenge as describing a body of Danny Cobb lore, where each story by itself verges on the unbelievable, but all of them put together are completely contradictory -- "one tale has him flying the plane when Haile Sellasie touched down in Kingston, though another story I heard put Danny Cobb in Hanoi round that time." There's nothing necessarily supernatural about any one part of it unless you try to reconcile all the tales. A legend isn't built on a general vibe, it's built on a thousand vivid details. (Green pens. Reflecting watches. Rolo.) Once the legend exists, just the hint is enough. But I guess I was looking for stories that would help build the legend, rather than lean on it.

On the non-Danny Cobb side of things, I found the ending a bit too open. It almost needed an epilogue. What happened to the narrator and Jay in the car? Did he drop her off at the hospital, never to be seen again? Did they get married and have a gaggle of kids? Did she stop working dead-end jobs? Did Jay straighten up?

This is probably too much speculation for a short, rushed story, but it felt like there must have been more to it than we saw. Like, "Did I ever tell you about the time my entire town was obliterated in a tornado and this total jerk had to drive me to the hospital in the Big City?" "No, what happened?" "Well, that was pretty much it." Um, okay then.

--
"Plans aren't check lists, they are loose frameworks for what's going to go wrong." -- technician

My first guess by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Jun 27, 2010 at 09:22:01 PM EST
... was that toxic wrote this. The drafts you posted seemed to have more ana-tells in them ... all the indirect dialogue for one thing.

I think it was only a problem, Dan Cobb turning up at just the right time, if you wanted to right it as entirely natural. As I'd already keyed into some sort of supernormal bent, it fit right in.

I kind of like the second draft, like dev trash's, in that it suggests Dan Cobb is a bit of an arsehole. Much like, as TDS on That Other Site has said, James Bond would actually be a psychopath if he really existed.

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Thanks... by ana (2.00 / 0) #3 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 06:58:28 AM EST
And yeah; the first 2 drafts were more my usual cup of tea. The final one was an attempt to write outside my comfort zone.

That, and I'm still trying to come to terms with a town vanishing into the night. I drove by a few weeks later, and there were tree stumps 8 feet tall, twisted off into a wooden tornado of splinters. They started over at the level of rezoning everything, rearranging the street map so it would work better. I'm sure property lawyers had a field day (as it were).

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

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Not sure how by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #4 Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 08:12:43 PM EST
... you could ever really come to terms with it. It's like the Australian bushfires, sometimes the town is just gone. Not that I've ever been as close the circumstances as it sounds like you were, that sense of knowing exactly what it was like before it wasn't.

Iambic Web Certified

[ Parent ]
And behold... | 4 comments (4 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback