What I Left Out of Broken Child Mended Man…and Why
Story 1: Mr. DJ, keep playing that song!
From eighth through tenth grade, I DJ’d several school dances. I can’t recall how I landed the gig, but one of my favorite memories had to be Mr. Tepper’s reaction when I played Sex & Candy by Marcy’s Playground. I’d never heard the song before that moment, but I was immediately hooked by the suave vocals and guitar play. Of course, that was interrupted by Mr. Tepper’s authoritative yelling, Hey! Hey! Hey! You can’t play that type of music here. As he approached, I just placed my arm around him and replied, Mr. Tepper, Look at all these people having a good time. We shouldn’t mess that up. I tell you what, let this song finish, and I’ll put on something I know you’ll like next. To my surprise, he let it go. I played Sweet Home Alabama, and the rest of the night flowed without a hitch.
Story 2: Toilet through the windshield
After arguing with Miriam about how uncool putting an old toilet in the back of my hatchback was and taking it to the county dump before school, I reluctantly jammed the disgusting old commode in the hatch and slammed the trunk. To my surprise, the top portion burst through the back windshield shattering glass over the gravel driveway. My immediate reaction was, “Oh, come on man!”
I tossed the toilet in the dumpster and rode silently down the long stretch of route 211 without a back windshield. Glenn sat in the passenger side in disbelief as well. The following weekend, I was able to locate a replacement hatch at a neighboring junkyard in Culpeper County.
Story 3: Being tested early
By this time, I’d fully morphed into a teen in reasonable control of my emotions when it came to anger. However, the new me was tested early when I overheard Rick, a kid I didn’t get along with, say “nigger” within earshot in the hallway.
Without hesitation, I stepped into his personal space and asked him to repeat what he said. He retorted that it was just a joke. I want to hear the joke. I like to laugh too, I assured.
Okay, here it goes: People were flying on a plane, and it was going down, the stewardess said that we are going to need some people to jump out of the plane so it doesn’t crash, so we are going to start in alphabetical order until we can balance the plane. So will all African-Americans jump off the plane. Nobody Moved. Will all Blacks, please jump off the plane. Nobody moved. Will all colored people, please exit the plane. Nobody moved. A black child leaned over to his dad and said, “Daddy, we’re all of those!” The dad said, “Not today, son, we’re niggers!
I contemplated my reaction while Rick and his friends nervously anticipated my response and ultimately decided to give a smirky chuckle before replying, “It was kind of funny, but you’re still a jackass, Rick. I headed to class and didn’t think any more of it. A year before, I would’ve smashed his face into the adjacent locker. That moment let me know I was gaining an upper hand on my inner demons.
I can’t recall why I decided to join a bunch of Oakwood boys that cold winter night to egg an all-girls dorm other than suffering from boredom. Nevertheless, I put on my neon yellow jacket, grabbed a carton of eggs and marched out the door. About ¾ of the way through my carton, I hear someone yell, “Stop right there!” Everyone scattered, but the bright lights from the golf cart drove directly toward me. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I put the jets on, and burned through the middle of campus. That poor security guard didn’t stand a chance as I high-tailed up the step to my dorm room and the third floor and tucked into my covers for the night.
The bright-yellow jacket was evidence, so I decided to refrain from standing out too much in case I happened to run into the guard somewhere down the road. My mother didn’t have a winter jacket, so I ended up concealing it off campus and donating it to her.
During my high school years, I maintained a closer relationship with my mother than I revealed in the book. I ultimately decided to leave the relationship out of that section and throughout college since transitioning between storylines and chapters became increasingly difficult. I couldn’t overcome the challenge of making sense of my feelings at the time, which included a mix of resentment, sorrow, and a compelling need to help because she was my blood and reason for existence.
There’s also a noticeable gap in stories between playing with my friend, Scott at his house during my K-3 years and when he was the best man in my wedding. He was my best friend throughout school, but we did some pretty stupid stuff that wouldn’t have made sense in the grand scheme of the person I was becoming. I was a different person with him; not that he was a bad influence, but we were just boys looking for trouble. For my many faults, I ultimately decided that some skeletons were better left unturned.
I’m sharing these anecdotes because it will be helpful for writers to understand that it’s okay to leave some items out. For me, it was a problem with transitioning. Luckily, the flow ended up working throughout the book.
Between my wife and editor, I also realized the need to tone the wording down a bit to make it more relatable to the reader. Coming fresh off a dissertation, I was still in academic mode. After reading and re-reading, I noticed how snooty I came across. Realizing this shortfall, also forced me to interject more humor throughout, even if it was at the expense of my reputation (i.e. smoking weed). Have people pre-read your writing and be open to ideas that will help it flow.
I was writing BCMM in chronological order when I decided to write a chapter about my high school girlfriends and sports in the middle of the book. I don’t have an earthly idea, why I decided to do that, but thankfully my editor pointed it out. As difficult as it was going to be to piecemeal the stories back into finished chapters, I knew it had to be done for the reader’s sake. Just be open to constructive criticism and ideas from differing viewpoints. It’s all in the name of making you a better writer.
Broken Child Mended Man is nearly 400 pages long, so it was necessary to cut out unnecessary stories and long-winded recants when I could sum it up in a paragraph or two. Anyone who knows me, understands how difficult such a process since I can go on and on about most topics.
Next Blog for the So You Want to Write a Book Series:
Editing…Ain’t Nobody Got Time or Money For That!
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