A Novel Serializationby Skip Horack
“In the first act get your principal character up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him; in the third, get him down gracefully.” A maxim that predates celluloid—and Nabokov, to whom, among others, the quote is often attributed—but, nonetheless, an adage that is still repeated, chanted almost, in film schools and in Hollywood.
So imagine this as a movie, Reader. A Last Days of Monkey Zak movie with Mikey “Monkey” Zak as the principal character/star, and all the heretofore (literary, bookish) backstory, exposition, ruminations, and digressions pared down into a tight, 25-percent-of-the-screenplay, up-in-a-tree first act. Go ye to New Madrid, Monkey (the Inciting Incident). Then the eviction-from-his-apartment confabs with Talbot Yarbrough and Lino Puglisi, and that smoldering morning with Susannah Clark. Even, told through a combination of voiceover and (perhaps) flashback, his torturous memories of a drowned English girl and of his own troubled youth—as well as the blur of French Quarter years between age twenty-one and age forty. A coming-to-a-boil gumbo that brings us to the Riverwalk and then the sight of a surveillance van parked near a tawdry Airline Drive motel (and make no mistake, that was definitely a surveillance van).
Our heroic monkey has been pressed up that tree. But in first-act Zak we have a protagonist without, thus far, a conscious and tangible outside goal to drive the action, right? His growing displeasure with his line of work still just an itch at the moment. His ignoble but understandable, suppressed-longing infatuation with Susannah—my divine wife, my Suzkie, my everything—still more leashed than unleashed.
Yet, hopefully, an emotional “heart” story has been established: an unconscious inner need to change the course of a life.