I’m like that television ad for language lessons, in which the German Coast Guard receives a mayday call, “Help! I’m sinking!” and the young guard replies, “Vot are you sinking about?”

It’s 2 am and I’m sinking. I’m sinking about my friggin’ plot. Seems we’ve entered the long dark night of the story.

I’m nutting over two different issues here. The first is:
1) What world do these characters live in?

The second is plot… or to be more precise:
2) How do my A, B and C Plots flow?

They go together inasmuch (can you believe that’s a word?) they inform each other, in the same way that our ‘theme’ (“is this real?”) informs everything.

But let’s unpick my problem backwards:

A Plot, B Plot and C Plot

In some respects, the idea of three interwoven story strands is a television notion, because the underlying structure of episodic TV needs your characters to ‘arc’ over the series. But, (maybe because I come out of television,) it still seems like a good way to track your characters through the ‘arc’ of the story.

So, in my story

A Plot: Tom Cooper is involved in a car accident which kills his parents. His Grandmother does everything in her power to nurse him through his coma, but dies before he recovers consciousness. When he wakes up – he discovers he’s been living a different reality, and needs to piece together the story that brought him to be a 25 year old man, with the life experience of a 10 year old. Once he does that, he needs to raise himself to manhood. Honour the dead and join the living.

B Plot: Romance with Izzie and Miranda. In some respects, this is an adolescent (school yard) story about the vicious inexperience which leads us to make all the wrong choices in love. Izzie is perfect for Tom, but he only sees Miranda – who’s not interested, until she discovers an economic advantage in being with him. It takes a growing maturity for Tom to shake his adolescence and accept that steadfast, free spirited Izzie is the girl for him.

C Plot: Tom Cooper has an invisible friend – the deceased British comedian Tommy Cooper – a good natured, awkward Charon, helping his young namesake over the River Styx. Tom finds him comforting, and, ultimately – hard to say goodbye to. The journey he takes with him (ultimately) isn’t to death, but to the shores of the river, where young Tom turns back in order to embrace life. (Not such a bad deal, as Tommy will be waiting for him in the future.)

Hey – this is a magical reality romantic comedy – doncha know.

So – if we think that’s going to work… we need to think about

1) What world do these people live in?

Are they rich or poor? Middle Class? Suburban? Working Class? British, American, or Australian (like me)?

Well – Tommy Cooper is British. He died in 1984. He is only really well known to a generation who grew up in the British Commonwealth. People migrate – so the character Gran may have brought the tapes (and the love of the comic) with her… but to somewhere where the British migrate.

I have always imagined the family to be working class. Outer suburb, upwardly mobile workers. Mining, farming, manufacturing. Gran is of sturdy stock. Mum and Dad were educated (high school and maybe a year or two of apprenticeship.) Tom was slated for the same.

Importantly – they can afford health care. Young Tom is in a very long coma. So it’s somewhere with universal health care – or a good union health plan.

Which country? In some respects the choice of Tommy Cooper as our comedian is influencing that decision. It’s been suggested by friends that Jerry Lewis would be a better (more widely known) roll model for the invisible friend. It’s possible. It would be like putting Pee Wee Herman in for Mr Bean. You could do it – and in fact, I would do it under a number of circumstances (availability, finance, legality) but this idea actually started with Tommy Cooper. There is a family friendly innocence to him that is delightful. I think he is due for a revival. And also, the comedian’s own story is so fraught with dark humour and insecurity, that he seems like a thoroughly sympathetic guide to the underworld. So, for the moment, until I need to bow to other forces – I’d like to keep Tommy Cooper.

So which country? I don’t think it matters. I’m erring to placing the story in a coal mining community. One in the depths of a recession as the world moves towards ‘clean’ energy. St Helen’s in Britain? West Virginia in the US? Hunter Valley in New South Wales, Australia? Old South Wales?

There are several things I like about these communities; one is the old working class values that underpin them; the other is the shift they’re experiencing to middle class agriculture (wine, cheese, etc); and their pretty, gentrified suburban potential. A third (possibly confusing and soon to be deleted) possibility is the current global shift to ‘fracking’ for natural gas in these communities. Another invisible, obfuscating element to bring to the ‘is that real’ theme of this story.

Is that over-complicating things? Maybe.

Maybe it’s time to take the dog for a walk and play with these ideas. See what I think after a nice cup of tea. One thing’s for certain. I’ll be needing to make a choice soon if I want to catch up my page rate for Script Frenzy.