The Evolution of a Story
On the streets there are sharks and dolphins. The sharks are street punks of different sorts, dangerous and aggressive in form. The dolphins are runaways who play in the street surf — carefree and unaware that sometimes sharks eat dolphins.
So begins the story of Escape from Dolphin Street.
Revisiting the past can be difficult. When I write a story it is, on some level, of the time it was written. Life changes everything from perception of genre to style and substance. It is one thing to write of the past like I am doing with my Rebel’s Edge series and quite another to revisit fiction.
Dolphin Street started life as an idea in 2002 when I was working at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone for the summer. In a place with no distractions except nature, I became intrigued with a true crime story in Billings, Montana. The story was of some unsavory street punks involved in a murder of one of their own. Some of the punks had made up names, like Syd for acid, Knappy, and Crackhead John. I saved the newspaper clippings and stored the idea away of runaways, the streets, and a body under a dilapidated house until around 2005 when I wrote a short screenplay.
It was not until 2008 that my other screenplays came to light. I entered a communal filmmaking community that became Brekolazh Films, a cutup idea of its own, founded by Jason Swarthout. Our first project was Spiked, an underground film filled with color and comic book attitude. Other screenplays that I floated were The Death Tarp, a tale of disease and revenge (now in Anarchy), L’Astuce (formally The Art Trick), Eternal (based on local Houston reality star Jacob Socialite’s diary -- mostly filmed), and the infamous 13 Pages that describes a descent into hell. None of these quite came to fruition.
One of mine that did was Shades, a tale of Montrose hustlers filmed in two weekends in 2010 with me playing the part of Gray. On its completion, Dolphin Street was going to be next -- not as a short, but as a feature film. The director of Spiked, Mike James was interested, so I went away to expand my short to a full screenplay. The expansion was fascinating. I opened up the beginning of the story in suburbia, added a new character, Adam, and the mystery of Jason’s brother, Trevor, to go with him. This allowed new scenes with the street punks and the protagonists, including a club scene with a made-up band, Institutionalized. The most radical change was the ending -- where the story once stopped, I went on in a different direction. Ultimately, I was happy with the script, as it felt all cult horror and insane like something Rob Zombie would do, with a gay angle. Progress was made and enough footage shot to put together a teaser trailer, which was shown at an art party. I was interviewed by C-42 Magazine at the event. Things seemed well, until they fell apart. Creative differences, lack of funding, and drama between cast and crew (a revolt of sorts) led to the downfall of the project. There was no starting over and it was a sad day when it officially ended in 2010. The experience ended the Andy Warhol styled studio days of that era.
During the same time, I also wrote the original as a short story to be included in an collection, Dark Lands, now long out of print from Wasteland Press. Interestingly enough, two versions of the same story existed at the same time. The idea of sharks and dolphins is also part of the street culture in my novella, Where the road Roams.
Excerpt from Anarchy — Strange Tales of Outsiders / Where the Road Roams
The bass booms while strobes go off. Dean turns to leave, but the punk girl blocks the way.
“You’re a dolphin.”
Perturbed, “What are you talking about?”
He tries to walk around, but she side steps.
“You should be careful.”
“There are sharks.”
Dean is torn between asking about his brother but also wants to get away from this crazy girl. With one hand in his back pocket, he speaks.
“I am looking for somebody.”
“I don’t want to know,” she smirks. “I am warning you about them. Dolphins are the ones that come out to the streets and play. The sharks are the hustlers. They are always angling for something. They eat dolphins. That’s all.” With that she walks away leaving Dean uncertain.
He chugs the drink down, gets another one, and decides to dance. It is dark and smoky for a few beats. He quickly takes his cash and slides it down into his left boot. The lights go into a new frenzy with New Order’s Perfect Kiss. Dean moves in a broken way at first until he catches the beat.
More time went by and my thoughts returned to Dolphin Street in 2014. I decided to not waste the energy of the creation of the long screenplay and rewrote the script into a novel. I was in a dark frame of mind and that tone -- that darkness -- permeated the story. I turned it into my publisher of the time, Beau to Beau, who I had found some small success with westerns and furries. Out of nowhere, I was struck with censorship for the first time. I went back and forth and made changes to characters and tone to no avail and was rejected again. I finally knew how it felt to create something that has a strong reaction. Escape was finally published in 2015 and became my last book with them. We amicably decided to part ways in August of 2016 due to creative differences, although the factor that broke everything was piracy.
Now in 2017, I have just finished putting the final touches of the final version of Escape from Dolphin Street. To be honest, it has been a hard and grueling process. I do not know if it is the dark subject matter, the broken history of the project, or something else, but the writing has had an effect on me. I am happy with where it is at now and am ready to set it free in October under my own imprint, DS. The original short story, Dolphin Street will be included in the back as an extra, so everyone can see the evolution of the story.