I no longer have the luxury of writing at a leisurely pace and taking a year to complete a story. I have set a deadline of Autumn 2015 for publication and engaged an editor. I now have to work like a pro. While I am presently indeed more productive, I grapple with several issues. Foremost among them is my inability to work on more than one project at a time. Once I start a story I live in its fantasy world which I frequently visit day and night, while driving,bicycling, waking up from sleep, shaving, drinking coffee or wine. I come up with new scenes, characters and angles which I then work out on the computer, advancing my story.
It is difficult for me to immerse in two different fantasy worlds while at the same time living my real life.But then I think, why not! Beethoven often composed two diametrically opposite works simultaneously, for instance the Fifth and Sixth symphonies. Why can’t I?
In the meanwhile I also feel that this will be my one and only anthology of short stories and that therefore I need to get everything into it, including some completed memoirs that have to be converted into fictional stories.So, for the first time I am working on two simultaneous projects, one a medical story, the other fictionalizing a memoir, a project I thought would be easy.
My first one did not turn out so. It was about Queen Elizabeth’s visit to our old English High School of Istanbul in 1971. I published this memoir in an old blog, and my EHS mates loved it. As it turned out, converting this to a third person fictional short story proved awkward. I realized that my new audience would not know the setting and background of the story, as did my EHS classmates, nor had they actually lived through that visit. Adding a necessary foundation to the story proved awkward, time consuming and in the end I am not sure that it has the same impact as the memoir did.
Another story that absolutely must be included in the anthology is that of my friend Kevork Apkaryan, an EHS alum with an epic story, dripping with romance and tragedy. I have already written thousands of words about Kevork in a memoir format.The first problem of fictionalizing it is already a hurdle. What do I rename him?
Choosing character names is not simple or random. Whether the readers notice it or not, the writer wants to have some foundation for names, some hidden meaning.
For instance, I have a good story entitled The Class, completed three years ago, about the goings on in a support group where all the characters were named after famous pop musicians. They were all first names and the pattern was not obviously apparent; Marley (Bob), Keith (Richards), Warren (Zevon), Janice (Joplin) and so on. I thought it was really cool that there was a secret commonality to all the names.
In another instance, in a surreal, Kafkaesque story entitled Nightmare, I named my hero Dario Moreno. The name means nothing to Americans, but to my fellow Turks who grew up in the 1960s they’ll instantly recognize it as a popular Turkish-Jewish singer who tragically died prematurely young. One cannot imagine a more unlikely person than Dario Moreno inhabiting the foreboding landscape of my strange story. I like it.
So what about Kevork? Late one night I spent over an hour researching Armenian names and their meanings on the internet, and finally came up with Bedros Minasyan.
Let me explain, beginning with the first name. Last March when I visited Kevork in Paris, he showed me around the hospital where he works. There, everyone called him George, with that guttural “r” that only the French pronounce. Puzzled, I eventually asked him what this was all about. It turns out that the Armenian word Kevork translates to a Western George, and that’s what he calls himself in Paris. So I looked for a parallel. Bedros translates to Peter. Wonderful, I thought. In my story the French will call him Pierre.
As for the last name, Kevork will immediately get it. Minas was the name of his beloved father and is the name of his new baby son.
Kevork’s story -sorry, that of Bedros – will be told in different cities, Zurich, Istanbul and Paris, maybe more. I don’t yet know all that the story will tell. Being fictional, Bedros will eventually go where Kevork has never been. Where? Again, I don’t know. I am all excited to find out. I can’t wait to get my teeth into Bedros – sorry, my fingers, since it will be through the keyboard that Kevork’s alter-ego will come alive.