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Friday, June 13, 2014

The Story Behind "End Up Alone"

The inspiration for “End Up Alone” came from a couple different places. The first thing that inspired this story was a tale I heard from a retired officer about a former Vietnam veteran who chose to live as if he was homeless despite the fact that he was receiving retirement checks from the military and had a very nice apartment on the river. The retired officer I spoke to found out about the veteran when the veteran’s daughter became worried about him when she tried to make contact. After some research the officer found out that he had come across the veteran before and had even seen him harassed by other officers who didn’t know the veteran’s story. I was fairly faithful to the story related to me by the officer in my original draft.

The other thing that inspired the film was driving through Whitefish Bay to drop off my rent check for a crappy place my wife lived in near the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee campus. Whitefish Bay is a fairly affluent suburb of Milwaukee, and my wife and I used to joke that if you lived in Whitefish Bay you had to walk or jog at least twice a day for exercise. The weather on this particular morning was much like it was in the story, and the song “End Up Alone” by Nine Days came on the radio inspiring the title and theme of the story. (Interesting anecdote to the story: At the time that I wrote the story we were living in a townhouse in Whitefish Bay.)

I made the conscious decision to stick to the inner-life of the character, which meant a lack of identity of the main character. In my own personal view, I don’t often think of myself as being male unless something comes up that requires me to think of myself in those terms. Also, in conversation, unless it is required, names aren’t often spoken among people who know each other well. I felt avoiding the main character’s name and identity felt organic, and the result is that you have an intimate knowledge of the character and can relate to them without being bogged down gender and race politics. (At least that was my hope.)

For revisions I decided to cut down on some extraneous exposition and focus more on interactions. First, I felt there wasn’t enough conflict in the original version of the story, so this led to the narrator getting fired from their job. This allowed for interaction with their boss as well as added tension in the story. I also decided to have the narrator actually talk to the homeless man. Since the narrator didn’t seem the type to actually initiate conversations, this seemed like a more organic way to deal with Mike as well as the older cop.

I don’t think I’m done with this story though, I feel there is more that I could do with it to strengthen the concept. I hope you enjoyed it, and if you have something that you would like to see in a future draft, I’d be more than happy to hear it!

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