March 17, 2013

Salvaging An Idea

Somewhere during the process of writing the first draft of Damage, one of my former coworkers asked if the murder mystery I was writing took place in a hotel. This was not in any way a strange question, since I have worked in the hospitality industry for more than 13 years and have a wealth of stories I have gathered from my experiences. The immediate answer, however, was no, Damage would not involve hotels.

But the question got me thinking how fun it might be to weave some of the bizarre tales I'd heard and lived through at the seven hotel brands I have represented throughout the years into one comical story. A fun murder mystery, in which the mystery is a minor support element to the real story: the interaction between diverse and eccentric characters brought together under the roof of a single hotel.

The biggest problem facing me was this story could not serve as a sequel to Damage. Good or bad, Damage is a serious-minded murder mystery that deals with death and suicide in a manner as realistic as the limits of my writing talents would enable me to present them. There was no way for me to take the main character, Ray, and drop him into a farce without whittling away significant aspects of his personality in order to cram him into lighter fare. So, I cast the idea aside and continued with the more serious task of finishing Damage.

Still, the idea of using the hotel setting to throw some memorable real-life characters together for a night or two nagged at me. Every time I thought I had put it out of my mind, another idea would pop up for a scene or a snappy line of dialogue. Unfortunately, I simply couldn't develop an image of the lead character, the hero. He, or she -- I had no prejudice -- was stubbornly refusing to present himself, or herself.

Then, only recently, while sitting on cold metal bleachers one night and waiting for my sons' hockey practice to end, it struck me. There was a minor character in Damage I had used for a little levity and to help move the action along. A senior reporter at the local newspaper at which Ray works, Walter would be perfect to carry this new comical story. He is opinionated, intolerant, self-centered, sexist and boorish -- all wonderful qualities, to be sure, that did not get much opportunity to shine through when he was merely a supporting player.

Any reservations I might have had about making him the lead for a comedy/mystery vanished when I started giggling like a schoolboy at the myriad ways I could torture him with a hotel full of people he hates. Now, only six pages into the first draft, the ideas are coming so fast and furious I find there's barely enough time to jot one down before the next one comes along.

2013 Mark Feggeler

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