My college campus was a stop on the commuter rail. You’d hear the whistle as the trains came and went, back and forth, shuttling people into the city in the mornings and back out again at night. Sometimes I’d be in class when that whistle would sound, and my mind would drift, wishing I was on my way in to Boston.
The city seemed so exciting to me, maybe because I’m from a small town. Maybe because I remember when I was small, my mother worked here in what we called “the Pregnant Building” for the way the bottom floors bumped up and out, then went back in. Even now, when I have a dream about walking in Boston, I almost always see that building there somewhere.
As I came out of Government Center yesterday, something about the air and the early morning light caught me up and sent me back to that. I can’t define it much more than this: it was one of those days that, if I’d been back in college, I’d absolutely have ditched classes and rode the train into town, like I did a few times back in the day. The air was cool, summer fading towards fall, clear blue sky promising a day that would be warm but not too hot. I wanted to go ramble through bookstores around Harvard Square and have lunch on the plaza in front of Trinity Church.
Instead, I had to keep going, across the street and into work. Stupid grown-up responsibilities.
I’ve worked in Boston for nearly nine years, and I’m not sick of it. The commute gets to me, sure, but that’s because the time I’m physically spending in Boston isn’t spent exploring the city.
One of my several writing projects is a story that takes place (at least at the beginning) in Boston. I’m realizing that when I ran it as a game several years ago, I didn’t really need to know the layout of the streets too accurately – my players were forgiving enough (and some were probably less knowledgeable about the city’s geography than I was.) Now that I’m working towards putting this in front of a larger audience (someday, maybe), that’s an aspect I’d like to make sure I get right.
Fairly early on, there’s a chase that begins in the North End. It’s ultimate destination is Cambridge, but the end of the flight can certainly end well before that. I’d like to try walking the paths the characters will take, or part of it, since I really don’t plan on travelling through sketchy alleys and hopping fences and getting arrested for trespassing. I’ll be bringing the camera along if I do this, so you’ll probably find yourselves on a photographic walking tour/preview sort of thing one of these days.
While I’m at it, might as well toss out a bit of a writing update, too. Anna’s backstory is finally done, which is nice. Took her long enough to tell it. Though, in finishing it, I was reminded of the intrinsic value of a good walk for unravelling plot threads. I was so close to finishing the final scene when it was time to shut down for the day. And, as much as the story was done, the way I was ending it felt too abrupt. So I got up, walked away, and played it out in my head on the way to the train.
I don’t even think I was out of the building before the true ending – the right one – came to me. From there, it was just a matter of spinning out the dialogue and typing it up. The final word count ended up over 17,000 words, 27 pages if I were to print it out. A bit longer than I’d intended, but a few scenes that I hadn’t originally planned demanded to be written, and I think they made the story better.
So, now on to outlining this new-old project (oh god, outlining. /hate). But one thing I’ve learned is, any time I’ve picked it up, I’ve gotten stuck on a particular scene. It’s something that needs to be there, but for whatever reason, I get the characters there and just… stall. In an hour of outlining it, though, I think I might have worked through the problem.
It was also kind of heartening, when I dusted off my old game notes (you don’t want to know the length of that file), I looked at a lot of the stuff I’d forgotten and thought, y’know? This isn’t half-bad.
So, there’s one thing getting a bit of a second wind, plus Lil, who’s rolling her eyes at me from her short story, a revisit of “Kate” sometime soon, and only about a hojillion things I owe other people for Davien, Threnn and Anna.
It’s a good kind of busy.