Chasing the Imaginary Octopus

As I discussed in my last blog post, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of iconic music figures, most especially the Beatles. If you’re wondering about my specific ideas and thoughts on the Beatles, I go into that in detail in that post, and you should take a look.

Right now I’m working on plans for a novel that is being given the working title Chasing the Imaginary Octopus. This is coming straight from the research I did on the Beatles and their lives and work, and also my research on other iconic music figures. Essentially what I want to accomplish with this piece is a look at the destructive nature of that level of hero-worship.

I’ll start out by saying that I am a fan. I become obsessed with things with alarming ease, and I confess that I’ve done both healthy and unhealthy things in the name of that obsession. What this work is NOT going to do is perpetuate stereotypes of fangirls and obsessive fandom. I want to work hard to combat those notions. But what I am looking at is the extreme levels of unhealthy obsession and that impact on the fans, the artists, and the loved ones of the artists.

I’m also looking at a lot of figures whose loved ones specifically cited drugs as a major destructive factor in the breakup of their marriages, and so any commentary on drugs in this novel will be colored with those types of testimony, and are not necessarily indicative of my own views on drugs and drug culture. I haven’t decided yet exactly how to play that sensitive issue, but I’m going to work hard to treat it delicately.

Right now I’m in the early stages. Imaginary Octopus is the band name I’m working with, so that’s where the loopy title comes from. It’s a bit of homage to the Beatles.

I’m working on character profiles, outlines of the chapters. I’m doing some different things formally here, a sort of pseudo-memoir interlaced with mini-chapters in omniscient third on fan responses to the death of a primary character. Because of this, I’m working carefully on full-novel organization on a level I’ve not done much of before, breaking down the general outline and piecing together what exactly needs to be told, what can be glossed over, etc.

Another thing I’m working with that I’ve never done before is basing characters and events on real people and events. It’s a mish-mash, with all characters based on at least on real person, many primary characters based on combinations of real people. Certain key events are based on real life events for those people, and one in particularly is a combination of two real events, all of these things overlaid with my own hand trying to find ways to smoothly put together very separate people and issues.

On top of the Beatles, I’m working with people such as Elvis, Kurt Cobain, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, and even Justin Beiber. One example of blending is that I am blending Elvis and Eric Clapton into a single character. This allows me to cover more cases that I’ve looked at, and to create more unique situations and personalities so that it’s not simply telling a story we’ve heard before. Some real people will be portrayed (Bob Dylan is the only one I’ve decided on for sure), but mostly I’m fictionalizing everyone.

I’ll keep you posted on the specific difficulties I come across as they happen, because there’s bound to be unique struggles based on the nature of what I’m working on. I’m excited to take a swing at some of the issues and stories in this project that fascinated me and started me working on it in the first place, and I’m definitely excited about the challenges this weird work will present. Hopefully it all works out!




About jillianavaloncolumbiatheatre

Recent college graduate, writer, aspiring teacher, lover of literature and art.

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