A Change of Clothes

Hello, Tallahassee! I just swam down from Switzerland, and boy is my siphon tired.

Hey, VanderMeerkats. I’m David Moles, and I make things up.

They say people are always asking writers how they come up with their ideas. They also say people are always coming to writers with ideas, offering to split them fifty-fifty, on account of they figure coming up with the idea was the hard part and the writer just has to do the writing. To nip all that in the bud, this week I’m going to put together an idea, in four parts, show you how I came up with it, and at the end of the week give it away free to anybody who wants it.

1. A Change of Clothes

Sexuality, procreation, the human body, invertebrates, marine life in general, fat people, people of other races, race-mixing, slums, percussion instruments…

Dizzy Caetano is five foot five, with the body of a smallish Greek god and the temper of a smallish Greek god who’s touchy about his height. In no particular order, he likes oysters, soft-shell crab, women, and the music of Fats Waller. Dizzy’s father was a Portuguese prizefighter and his mother was a Puerto Rican negro showgirl. Dizzy fought, too, when he was in the Merchant Marine, but that’s over now.

In a dirty one-room apartment overlooking the railway tracks, Dizzy is fastening a clean white collar to a blue striped shirt. He’s sliding the knot up his tie, hooking his thumbs in his suspenders and hitching them up, brushing the dust from his black wingtips, folding a silk handkerchief just so, and tucking it into the breast pocket of his gray wool jacket. He’s picking up his hat and, from under it on the carved Chinese end table, the keys to his Oldsmobile.

On an out-of-tune piano, somewhere very close, someone is playing “The Joint is Jumpin’.” Dizzy Caetano has a job.

Part of this (hinted at in the title and the epigraph) is a trick, and tomorrow I’ll tell you how that part’s done. The rest is just doing what I nearly always do, which is to start with a character — in this case Dizzy, here.

My dad says there are people who talk about people, people who talk about things, and people who talk about ideas. (My friend Jackie adds a fourth category, people who talk about themselves, like I’m doing now. I try not to do much of that, but what the hell, I’m on stage.) Me, when I talk about people, I tend to talk about them in terms of ideas expressed through relationships to things.

If it was my friend Ben Rosenbaum telling you about Dizzy, you’d be hearing about Dizzy’s mother, and his half-brother, and his ex-wife, and the kid he sees maybe once a year who calls another man ‘Daddy,’ and how Dizzy feels about that. But Ben’s an extroverted, happily married father of two with an interest in psychology, and I’m an introverted, stoically single father of zero with an interest in social history, so I don’t know these things about Dizzy yet, and instead of human relationships you get demographics and material culture.

Sorry. It’s just the way I’m wired, I guess.

Meanwhile, I dream of the day Will Hindemarch mentioned, the one David Simon dreads, when somebody tells me “exactly where my work is shallow and fraudulent and rooted in lame, half-assed assumptions.” First, it’d satisfy the narcissistic craving for attention that’s the reason I got onto this writing scam in the first place. Second, it’d be really useful to know. So feel free to tell me, in the comments. If you run out of ammunition, I promise to give you more tomorrow.

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