The more i write of this book the more i like it and the more I get a really good feeling about it. In my own eyes at least the idea of writing the book in an ‘older’ style has paid off. Quite frankly on that front I don’t even have to think about how I’m writing it anymore. The style just comes naturally now and as a case in point I’ve noticed it seeping into my other work (maybe not a good thing :s ) I think the style only adds to its brilliance though. It’s helping to contribute to what is fast becoming a brilliant, funny, touching (substitute unnecessarily cute) story. But so far all I’ve concentrated on is Charlie at age seven and I’ve gone as far as I can with that so now it’s time for Charlie to grow up…
If I detailed everything about Charlie’s childhood I’d be writing it forever and that would quickly get boring so what is needed first is some sort of exposition about what goes on in the intervening years… Namely Mr Carrion getting married and having an evil son by the name of Nigel. Then we reach 1929 and hit Anna’s death. Charlie get’s a sizeable chunk of cash which allows him entry to the local grammar school and escape from the horrors of Mr Carrion. Not all of his friends will be joining him however and this will be crucial for what is to follow. Jeremy and Henry are staying behind at the church school where Carrion will continue to indoctrinate them in his numerous wicked ways. For Henry this isn’t a problem as his isn’t really impacted by the indoctrination. Besides, his family is about to be hit by the small matter of the Wall Street Crash so he’ll have other problems to deal with soon enough. But for Jeremy this is a deadly serious matter and it’s going to set him and Charlie on very different but interconnected paths that will hereby form the backbone of the story. Jeremy’s prolonged contact with Carrion is going to radicalize him in a big way and this is about to form a crucial plot point that will chart the course for the rest of the book.
Meanwhile Charlie and his other friends, including Violet, are going to the Towcester Grammar school where they’ll all be very happy… And that of course means it’s also OCD realism time (I should really get that seen to…). And the OCD realism in this case centres around the Towcester Grammar school as you might well have guessed. The building still exists as does the institution (though it’s no longer a grammar school,) and I can use my regular haunt of street view/ google maps to ascertain what the building may have been like. It takes some skill to see it as there’s a lot of modern constructions around though. Still… The WW2 arials can also give me a hint of what to look for and in the end i worked it out with few problems…
Charlie’s first day at school brings with it a problem. Having met Violet four years before he’s used to Girls and being around them, same with Violet… She’s used to boys. But having spent their lives being segregated the rest of their classmates are a bit nervous about this… And as Charlie and Violet’s friendship is currently known to a total of three people (Alice, Monty and Grandpapa,) and rather than admit the truth to their friends they decide they both need to find a way to gloss over the fact that they know each other. And this is where the first large twist in the story begins. The nervousness and unease that exists between the boys and the girls allows Charlie and Violet to re-introduce themselves to each other and they do it in such a way that it shocks their classmates into interacting with each other. On the first day of school the boys are camped in one corner of the schoolyard staring at the girls in fear whilst the girls are in the other corner whilst staring at the boys in fear. And if you think I’m going completely off my trolley I’m not… well not really. I’m basing this on proper good old fashioned psychology as I did earlier in the book when Charlie first met Violet. It’s the very same reason why cooties etc. exist… Boys and Girls, particularly when segregated from an early age as was commonplace in early-mid 20th century Britain, believe that the other sex has something ‘wrong’ with them… That they’re a bit weird or they’ve got some disease. That’s what these children are thinking and though we might scoff at them believing such a thing at age eleven now remember we’re talking about the 1920’s when a stable childhood lasted far longer than it does today. They weren’t so much exposed to the opposite gender in early childhood as we are today and so it’s only fair to assume that back then what is commonly referred to as the cooties phase was more prevalent and wasn’t so easily dismissed as it is today.
So Charlie, with a bit of acting thrown in, tries to bluster his friends into thinking that girls aren’t really that scary. Of course his friends decide to make him prove this and as a result they send him off to the other side of the schoolyard to talk to some girls… Which gives him the perfect excuse to ‘introduce’ himself to Violet and her friend Lavender. The other boys see this and they just watch in astonishment. Eventually Charlie brings Dorset over because Lavender likes him and this sets off a chain reaction whereby the boys and girls of Towcester finally get over the cooties phase, mostly… Well… There are two boys that aren’t there and that’s a problem: Jeremy and Henry.
Seeing his friends having fun with girls Henry gets over the ‘cooties phase’ quite quickly and in actual fact he soon finds himself in a love triangle with a girl called Rosemarie… But that’s neither here nor there and its trivial to the story anyway. The real issue is Jeremy. Because he’s been brainwashed by Carrion he’s going to hate the idea of mixing with girls and he’s going to blame Charlie for it in a big way. Rather than one altercation it’s going to be a series, each getting progressively more calamitous. The first is just Charlie trying to convince Jeremy not to be so petulant and rude and this ends with Jeremy storming off. The second involves Jeremy nearly beating Charlie up outside his house for no other reason than his Dad has found out (from Charlie) about the first incident and told him to grow up. And this inevitably leads to a bigger bust up later on after the other boys try and get Jeremy to attend a dance at Towcester town hall. Once again Jeremy blames Charlie and this time the two of them really do have a fight before Jeremy wanders off claiming that ‘All Women are going to burn in Hell because of original sin,’ a piece of information which we quickly learn he acquired from Carrion.
I find original sin to be a very interesting concept, especially when you consider who was to blame/who deserved to be punished and why. As such i’ve end up using these arguments to further the plot of book somewhat and to also set Jeremy and Charlie at odds with one another. Jeremy, having some sort of issue with girls/women, is firmly on the side of blaming Eve and solely Eve for what happened whilst Charlie takes a much more liberal attitude and believes that Adam was also as much to blame because he ate the fruit as well (a similar take to that of Milton in Paradise Lost). This leads Charlie to state that if all women are burning in Hell because of original sin then surely men are suffering the same punishment. It doesn’t quite work like that in reality but these are eleven year old boys so you hopefully get the drift.
Anyhow in the end Charlie and Jeremy resolve their differences with the aid of a sermon from the local vicar (guess on what topic 😉 ) but from now on their friendship won’t ever be the same again… And that’s the crucial point in all this really. Their argument the first crack in an otherwise near perfect friendship and very soon there are going to be more cracks appearing… Especially when they’re about to get a rather harsh life lesson all about mortality. Inevitably this lesson will be brought about by someone’s infatuation with a girl and that’s going to cause another crack to appear in Jeremy and Charlie’s friendship.
What we’ve now reached is the books first turning point. This is where the main plot begins to form and eventually these cracks in their friendship will lead to the Charlie’s pursuit of Jeremy through Spain and to his eventual imprisonment. I think what this argument serves is to define the major differences between Charlie and Jeremy and to set up the agenda for the rest of the book. Charlie is amiable, sensible and level headed whilst the Jeremy is irrational, argumentative and easily swayed by the likes of Carrion. From now on these are the differences I have to play on if I’m to make this book a true marvel to behold. The focal point really has to be on Jeremy and Charlie. Granted, everything else that has happened still has to come into play somewhere along the line but somehow that’s also all got to tie in with Charlie and Jeremy… So for instance the burgeoning romance between Charlie and Violet will eventually become the final crack that shatters everything between them… When they finally seal the deal a large number of things are going to happen… What happens is really a riff on their original romance as was depicted in the first draft(s) so I don’t want to say too much at this stage. Among those things the final breaking of the friendship. However, that’s not for a while yet and there are other things that have got to happen in the meantime.
First of all there’s the Wall Street Crash which is going to happen any day now. Granted Towcester isn’t going to suddenly turn into a pastiche of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ but there’ll definitely be some belt tightening going on. Henry’s going to be affected by this as i mentioned earlier but it’s also going to allow Carrion to vent himself and that will impact Jeremy. Following this we’ll have Charlie and Violet coming closer than ever before followed by some more growing up… Charlie’s mother will become pregnant and cast him from the family home for a while and he’ll go and live with the Compton’s for a few months which will undoubtedly increase the strain on their friendship in some way. This will also be around the same time that Charlie and Violet finally work their way around to regular games of tonsil hockey and the close proximity between the two boys will once again set Jeremy on edge. Add to this the lesson in mortality and we’ll soon have an awful lot of cracks appearing in. All of this will contribute in some way but when i finally get there the straw that breaks the camels back will be that moment when Charlie and Violet seal the deal.
As for the original target… I wanted to be finished by this October and although I’ll definitely reach the appropriate word count by then I’ll be nowhere near finished. I’ve spent longer than I intended dwelling on Charlie’s childhood but I think in the long term that’s a good thing as it greatly improves the narrative of the book. The downside is i don’t know when it’ll be finished… It will get there eventually though… One day.