One of the harder things for me to know is when to bring something to an end. Not being that experienced as a writer, it’s something I struggle with. Once I meet the right characters I tend to prefer telling their stories in a longer way because that gives me the chance to practice my craft. Great characters don’t come easily, at least for me, so I like spending more time with them once they’ve entered my life.
Some of you may think I spent too much time on Ethan’s first year playing professional baseball and perhaps you’re right. But I could have continued Ethan’s story much longer if I wanted to. I could have introduced a new cast of characters and talked about his time with the Columbia Crush (and later still with the Portsmouth Tide to provide a little peek into the furure). But writing a chronological account of Ethan’s life is not what this story is about.
It’s more about his emotional development as a human being and that of Hunter as well. And capturing someone’s emotional development is not always easy if you’re focused on the everyday details of a life. Sometimes things happen gradually and over time; and there are times when that’s easier to capture if you pause a story and then move it forward several years.
Reading a story is not the same as writing one, of course, and there are times when I wonder just how conscious of time you are as a reader. The first five chapters of this story, Part I, covered much of June although four of the five chapters were focused on just two days. The fifth chapter covered the brief period between when Ethan was drafted and the day he signed his first professional baseball contract and said his good-byes to family and friends.
Chapters 6 through 18 of the story covered a little over two months, the end of June through the beginning of September when Ethan’s first minor league season ended. Chapter 19 covered the rest of September, October and roughly half of November, including his time in Arizona. By contrast, Chapter 20 covered a somewhat longer period of time, from mid-November to the beginning of May the following year when Ethan learns he’s been promoted to the Crush, the AA affiliate of the Baltimore Blues.
I mention this because it’s easy to lose track of time. The sub-title of Part I was Spring; of Part II, Summer. But hopefully it’s obvious I’m using these terms metaphorically. Part III of the story, which we are now about to begin, is sub-titled Fall and that’s appropriate because we’re going to catch up with Hunter in September as he begins his final year of college.
Wait a second, you may be asking yourself. What happened to all the time in between? In Hunter’s case, we’ll be spending some time early on in Part III sketching out those previous three years, if only briefly. Later still, at the beginning of Part IV, we’ll do the same for Ethan from the point where Part II ends.
I’ve done this before, most notably in Connected. There I moved the story forward because I didn’t want to spend a lot of time spelling out in detail exactly what happened to Tommy during his time on the streets of Washington. There probably would have been some who appreciated a more vivid description of that time period because Tommy was a hustler after all and his life was mostly a series of sexual couplings. That’s what he did to survive.
But what would have been gained? To me the contrast in his personality was easier to describe several years later when he had lost whatever innocence he began with. Not that I have a problem writing about sex if it advances a story. It’s a part of life and I don’t think it’s inappropriate for it to be depicted in stories.
Most of the sex depicted in my stories is gay plain vanilla because, honestly, most of the time that’s the kind of sex most gay people actually have. Occasionally some of us may dabble in other things, but I’ve tended to avoid depicting that because I can’t be certain who is reading my stories.
If I have younger gay readers, they might be turned off by some of the more exotic things some gay people do. Of course, you could argue a lot of people might be offended by my depictions of any gay sex. It’s not easy drawing the line and I don’t pretend the lines I draw are the rights ones for everyone. They’re just the right ones for my characters.
That’s not to say I won’t ever go further in a story. Truth be told, I’ll be going there in Part IV although it will definitely be milder than I planned originally.
And yet having said all of that, it’s important to remember that life is about more than just sex, at least for most of us. It’s about the friendships we make and lose along the way, the work we do, whether playing ball or hitting the books. It’s about family as well. But mostly it’s about the passage of time, where we’re coming from and where we’re going to (or at least where we think we’re going), and all of the changes that can bring.
Not every day in our journey will be life changing. Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut doing the same thing over and over again, only to eventually make some breakthrough. Like any writer, I don’t try to capture everything in a life. I try to capture what I think is important and that’s why I’ve moved the story along in Part III.
Perhaps you’ll end up regretting not knowing a bit more about what happened in the time I skipped, but hopefully you’ll enjoy what I don’t overlook in Part III that might have otherwise been sacrificed.
As mentioned before, Hunter is different than Ethan. Ethan has known he’s gay for a long time, but he’s playing a sport where he isn’t allowed to be out about that and that will have important consequences for where he ends up down the road. By contrast, we’ll see Hunter in a different environment, one more welcoming and friendly to gay people.
On the other hand, Hunter is less certain of his sexuality for various reasons, including the fact that he mistakenly believes Ethan is straight and he wants to be like his friend. Sex has been somewhat confusing for him and, like many people, there are times when he finds it easier to just ignore the whole thing.
But we’re sexual beings in the final analysis, whether we’re actually having sex or not. It can be suppressed. It can be denied. But eventually it confronts us and forces us to make choices. That’s what Part III is about, the choices Hunter makes.
Chapter 21 is up. You can find it here. Along with Chapter 22, this is a transitional chapter designed to take us from the present (Chapter 21) to the past (Chapter 22) and then back again. Have fun reading and be sure to let me know what you think.