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Liesa and I spoke on the phone for 45 minutes last week, and I still came away from it feeling like I don't know WTF to do with this climax thing.

We discussed some of the ideas you all wrote about on my last entry on this topic, but she didn't seem overly keen on any of it.  I mean, she didn't say, "No, don't do it!!!!" or anything like that.  But she definitely was not giving me the go ahead either.   She thinks I just need to get started on the rest of her suggestions and The Right Climax will come to me as I'm working. 

We'll see about all that...

She did say something that I find extremely interesting, though. 

Back story, blah, blah, blah:  When I was 14 and a freshman, every morning in homeroom I would see this kid go slouching past the window outside on his way into the school to get to his own classroom.  I watched for him while I sat in my classroom a couple of minutes before the bell like a good girl.  I suspected that he was late to his class every single day. 

I thought he was kind of cute, kind of ugly, and very intimidating.  I thought he looked like a total stoner.  And mean!  I thought he looked mean.  Months later, I discovered that I was very wrong about that last part, and he wasn't into drugs at all.  He just wasn't a morning person.  He wasn't a school person.  Dragging his ass out of bed was his least favorite part of the day.

So, when I was coming up with my idea for the characters who would become Seth and Rosetta, I wanted to write a dynamic like that.  Where the girl found the boy interesting, yet intimidating, and thought he was a stoner when he really wasn't.  Then I decided that, actually, maybe it would be more interesting if she was right and he was a stoner, but that he was trying to change.

Things evolved from there.  To make the story more compelling, he needed a good reason to want to change, right?  So, I killed off one of his friends.  This served to scare him away from his old ways, which was my whole intention.  It also caused him tremendous guilt because he felt like there he should have been able to save his friend.  That was sort of a side effect, but it added to what I was doing, so I went with it.

Liesa doesn't see this story the same way I do.  I mean, if I were to ramble through what it's about to someone, I would probably say it's about a kid who gets scared sober after the death of his friend, and who has to learn how to deal with this new, sober version of himself, and not fitting into his old life, etc.

Liesa thinks of it more as a story about a kid who self-sabotages because he can't forgive himself for his friend's death.  He's distancing himself from everything that lead up to it -- the drinking, the partying, even playing in his brother's band -- because doing those things and trying to continue on like normal makes him feel guilty.  Like, why should he get to have this life, how can he even try to be happy when Isaac can't?  And it's all his fault that Isaac can't.

So, Liesa thinks that what the whole story is building toward is not about Seth being able to confront his fear and accomplish something sober (playing onstage) for the first time in his life, but really, it's about Seth accepting that he isn't fully responsible for Isaac's death,  deciding that it's okay for him to move on with and be happy (and understand that it's what Isaac would want him to do), and ultimately, forgiving himself.

When she pictures this abstract climax that she can't seem to articulate, it doesn't have much to do with drinking or drunk driving or anything dramatic.  It's all about Seth seeing something or experiencing something (and she doesn't think it should be someone telling him something in dialogue) that makes the switch flip in his brain so that he's finally able to do those things mentioned in the previous paragraph and forgive himself.

What I have is more subtle in that regard.  In that talk with his mom, he sees that his mom's guilt over Isaac's death is misguided.  And that helps him see that maybe some of his own is, too.  But that isn't enough, apparently.  My focus is more on, Look!  He's accomplishing this very specific thing when he plays onstage sober!  And now we have a satisying character arc!  And while Liesa likes that stuff and wants to keep it, she also wants Seth's Big Realization That Needs to Happen During the Climax to be very specifically about the guilt thing and all of Seth's inner pain.

Oh, what a headache this is giving me.