Benji & C’s comedic banter worked during the initial setup where Benji has no recollection of the party (“a lot of talk you can’t remember the next day“) and C teases him about it, but the abrupt switch to the DJ murder plot was hard for early readers to take seriously when the roommates made a big joke about it. I knew I wanted the “somebody killed the DJ!” bit to come out of nowhere like it does in the song, but also needed to balance some semblance of believability to it no matter how absurdist the storyline was.
Eventually the solution was twofold: Have Benji straight up acknowledge that he isn’t sure if C is being serious or fooling around, and have C dodge the question and hint that he doesn’t completely recall either. As C said previously, “I can’t recall” is a better alibi than “I had a sore throat.” Amnesia isn’t intended as a convenient plot device; both faulty memories happen for a related reason we’ll get to in The Mummy chapter later on.
The other line I was driven by an unknown force to write about was “Sometimes numbers are exchanged.” This manifested as the paper scraps scene. Originally the letters were all Xs and Os in an overcomplicated reference to the self-released Benji Hughes albums XXOXOXX and OXOXOXOXOX (re-released years later as Another Extreme and A Lovers Extreme), but it wasn’t making sense to anyone but me. (Re-reading the outtakes and my notes now it barely makes sense to me…)
Something that does make sense to me is this excited note in the margins of that old draft:
Not Xs and Os! The cards spell EVILON, but Benji mistakenly thinks they spell IN LOVE — which segues to “We were in love, in love as they come…”
Realizing that EVILON & IN LOVE were anagrams provided the jolt of inspiration I needed to get this scene back on track. As a bonus, it also ended up inspiring some pretty cool illustrations when I started to realize some other anagrams for the same six letters:
More on Evilon and aliens later…
- Opening this chapter with a deja-vu redux of “Tight Tee Shirt” was planned. Hinting Benji can hear the narrator happened naturally/goofily while I was writing—but inspired me to figure out why it happened and to make it important. Took a real long time for me to figure out how/why, but this was the point I started to run with the intrusive narrator as a character idea.
- In the companion version of this scene from “Tight Tee Shirt” the TV is showing a movie related to the previous dream, but here I specifically wanted the TV to be off to plant the “maybe it wasn’t a dream” seed.
- “What’s the last thing you do remember?” is a nod to the movie Memento, which provided some inspiration/reassurance that a non-traditional structure to the narrative was okay.
- I intentionally steered away from the obvious/assumed “you can’t remember because you drank too much” trope, though the first draft did go there.
- One of the final pieces of the full puzzle of the novel was naming the roommate character C. From day one he went by Count (and technically still does), but late in the game the real Benji Hughes suggested C had a better ring to it for a reader plus an extra layer of mystery pairing his single-letter name with L’s. It was Benji’s only major editorial comment, and a great one at that.
- “You know, the other story they tell you to distract you from the main story. But it’s not always a distraction. Sometimes the twist is the fact it relates.” True + meta foreshadowing.
- Starting a sentence with “well” being a sign of lying is one of my all-time favorite fun facts. Keep an eye out for characters speaking this way…
- When the paper scraps were still Xs & Os, they came from a business card for a character named Detective Oxymandis. On a break from editing L Extreme, I added Oxymandis to my Duty Calls short story Copper on Parchment as a fun little crossover. Later I cut him from LX, so even though he originated there he only exists in the subsequent story. (Ultimately a good thing, as the way LX plays out his appearance here would make no sense.)
- C ate the paper. That’s how it got inside. Benji just figured out how an old magic trick worked. File that away for future/freaky/flashbacky reference…
- Originally I divided the novel into two parts, split up like the two discs of the double CD. The cheeky “I need to change discs” came after Mmmmmm. Later I added “I need to flip the record” for a cooler old-school vibe. Much later I realized the four sides of a double LP made for (semi-)reasonably contained acts, so I ran with it. (Pun intended; more on that later…)
Check out L Extreme