A Conversation Between Diaries
- Book Excerpt from "Fly on the Wall"
On a date with his coworker, Jaylin dies and finds himself in a surreal afterlife world where he gets to choose to be reborn over and over.
A Conversation Between Diaries
Next spring, it will be two years ago that I left the working world to pursue my dream of working for myself as a freelance writer. My intention was to write for others, at first, and then to focus on writing novels. The first day of my new career path I wrote a snippet of words and taped it to my desk next to the fortune cookie messages I had received throughout the year that echoed I was on the right path. My hand-written snippet read: “Job Description: Freelance Writer and Storyteller: Provides stories, anecdotes, and metaphors to help transform the minds of people on their journey through life. Express the life of one being.”
Until a few weeks ago, it had been over five years since I’ve worked on a novel. My first novel took over five years to write, and still isn’t ready to be published. I decided that I would participate in the 3-Day Novel Contest that takes place yearly over labor day weekend. The plan was to write a 100 page novel in three days, and then submit it to the contest. It was good timing because I had just written my plan out for a Journal Workshop I was participating in. My plan was to keep separate thought and dream journals to assist me in writing novels. This was the perfect time to put my plan to the test.
The name of the novel I chose was “Fly on the Wall”. It was a random idea I had thought up one day while showering. There was a fly on the wall and I wondered “What would it be like to see through the eyes of the fly?” It just so happened that the phrase ‘fly on the wall’was a metaphor for a cameraman of a reality TV show. It was settled, my main character would be the cameraman of a reality TV show that captures the daily life of a mother, father and daughter.
The first morning of the contest I realized I had forgotten to pose a question to my subconscious mind before going to sleep. Requesting a dream is a technique that Sally Nelson recommends in her book “Night Wings”. I was in great need of knowing how to start the first scene of my novel because it was the hardest part of writing for me. If I could make it beyond the first few pages of the novel – I would be okay. I realized as I wrote my dream into my dream journal that my mind had given me the answer even though I hadn’t formally posed the question. In the dream, I had suffered humiliation because a friend had took my phone and listened to a silly song I had recorded on it. I felt my privacy had been invaded, and I was ashamed of something I should not have been. This dream reminded me of our discussion in the Journal Workshop about hiding our diary so that others do not invade what we consider private. My mother would peek into my diaries as a child. I knew that feeling. She had done it so often that I began to leave messages for her in my diaries just in case she was reading it.
This dream prompted me to begin “Fly on the Wall” with the reality TV show mom reading her daughter’s diary while she is at school. She reads it aloud. It is even more humiliating for the daughter because it’s broadcast on TV for all her friend to see. The idea was fleshed out in my thought journal before being added to the novel. The journal is where I feel I can write more freely. I began to flesh out dialogue for the main character, Jaylin, as I wrote in my diary, “It’s strange watching lives from the outside. You can see the themes of their lives in a way they can’t. You want to comment on what they can do to make it all better, but when it comes to your own life you’re at a loss” (5-6).
The second day of the contest I awoke with the strong feeling that it was essential for Jaylin to die by the end of the next chapter I wrote. I couldn’t remember a dream – just this thought, which I wrote into my dream journal. I knew that killing my main character was probably against some literary rule, but I was planning to break it several times. Jaylin would die more than once because one of the main themes would become reincarnation.
Jaylin dies and is thrust into a strange afterlife by the start of chapter four of “Fly on the Wall”:
Jaylin exploded into a world of computer monitors and switches – and clean sterile metal walls. There were hallways stretched in all directions around him. He felt like he was in a high tech university. A small man with bright blue eyes and red hair – much like Jamie’s stared back at him.
“Where the f—- am I,” Jaylin suddenly exploded out. “What… where… Christ sakes,”
“Your dead,” the small man said bluntly. “Welcome.”
“Ah… dead. I was having a date. I think I was falling in love,” Jaylin screamed. He could feel his face contorting around the words. He felt like he had just lost something really important. “I can’t be dead.”
“Ah…. yeah,” the man paused. “Your dead. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say it quite like that. I’ve been dead for a while. I just kind of forgot what that first time was like.”
“First… first!” Jaylin was starting to let spittle fly in the little man’s face, even though he was sure that it wasn’t the man’s fault. “What the bloody hell do you mean by first?”
“Well… ah…” he stammered. “I’m Dorian,” he stuck out his pale hand at Jaylin. Just then he heard a high-pitched scream. He turned to see a young lady pulling her own dark brown locks from her head. She was screaming with utter panic.
“Nooo,” she screamed. “You can’t do this to me. I don’t want to be here.”
“Ah, and that is Kaylee,” Dorian stammered. “Awe sh–. Two newbies. I wasn’t ready for this, you know.”
Dorian rushed towards Kaylee to try to comfort her. She swung at his chest.
“Do you f—— know what suicide means,” she said. “It means I don’t want to THINK. I don’t want to BE. Why the hell am I here. What is this place.” Kaylee was obviously angry. It was also obvious that Kaylee wasn’t as lucky as Jaylin to have someone stop her from committing suicide like Jamie had done for him.
Lucky? What was he thinking? He was dead. That wasn’t lucky. In fact, it was the farthest thing from being lucky. Was Jamie even there? Perhaps he had imagined all the moments with her. Maybe she was some deranged hallucination of a man dying from slitting his own wrist. And this, this was purgatory.
“I’m sorry,” Jaylin stammered. “Are we in purgatory?”
Dorian laughed and then caught himself and paused sinisterly. “Ah. Well, that depends what you mean by purgatory,” he said. “You know, I’m not really sure. I’m just dead like you. I don’t claim to know anymore than you do. I’m just suppose to guide you to your orientation.”
“Orientation? We need an orientation?” Jaylin asked. (31-32)Later, I felt I was stuck on what would happen during Jaylin’s orientation into the afterlife. I converse again with my thoughts in my diary. Soon a piece of dialogue develops; “Welcome to the world beyond the real world. Real world?”" the man giving the orientation laughs.
“The material world is anything but real. It is a stage for you to learn… to experience – imagine it as your university” (6).
There are also moments in my thought journal where I complain, doubt myself and even coach myself to keep going with the contest. I write; “Arrr…gh, this free flowing stuff is so hard to maintain. But I can’t give up now…” (6).
Moments later, after letting all my doubts run free on the page of my thought journal, a snippet comes to me for Jaylin’s question of whether he can be reincarnated as a President; “Presidents aren’t usually first-borns. That’s reserved for experienced souls. Of course, there was one time… but he really made a mess of things” (7).
The last day of the contest I was well into my story. My journal was filled with excited thoughts because I completed my goal – a 100 page novel in three days. I was also very happy with the end-resulting manuscript. It was by far my best writing ever. Each day, I had been reading a new chapter of my novel to my boyfriend. In my thought diary I write; “I couldn’t read the last paragraph aloud because I was overcome with emotion” (8). Part of the emotion was the energy of completing my feat, and the other part was because the end of “Fly on the Wall” was perfect.
Novels are the diary that I share with the world. Like a dream, the characters all represent an aspect of me. The storyline deals with some issue that I need to work through. In this case, the issue was my own fear of death.
In conclusion, I find that writing a novel while keeping both a dream and thought journal allows deep conversation between my subconscious and conscious mind – and what I believe to be the super-conscious or “collective transpersonal” as described by Sally Nelson in “Night Wings”. The outcome is a piece of artwork that reflects who I am and what I think. This belief is also reflected in
“Fly on the Wall” when Jaylin discovers that the “Spiritual Gurus” or “enlightened” are able to awaken in their various material lives by submitting forms at offices found in the mysterious hallways of the afterlife. Here is an excerpt:
Jaylin did his best to make sure the boy and old man guru did not see him follow them down the strange hallway. He wondered why Dorian never mentioned the hallway. But there was a lot that Dorian didn’t mention.
The young boy turned to the older man.
“Let’s start here,” he said.
They opened a doorway marked “Dreams”.
Jaylin slipped down the hallway past the door. He read the other doors as he passed them, “Random Thoughts”, “Revelations”. Jaylin slipped into the last one when he heard voices at the end of the hall.
He practically jumped out of his skin when a woman behind a desk addressed him.
“Welcome to Creative Out-pours,” she chirped. “Is there a form you wouldlike to submit?” (59).
Coe, Robin. Fly on the Wall. Unpublished, 2010.Coe, Robin. Dream journal from the author. 2010Coe, Robin. Thought journal from the author. 2010Nelson, Sally. Night Wings. Maine: Nicholas-Hays, 2004.
Robin Coe is a journalist and author. She wrote the fantasy novel "Fly on the Wall" and graphic novel "Illustrated Book of Wrath".