LX Chapter Commentary #5: Waiting For An Invitation

Our lyrical raw materials: Cemetery –> Stars/Planets –> Band –> Apology Letter –> Unsent Invitations. Musically it’s a pretty song that takes things down a notch compared to the tunes that preceded it. And that’s the slalom course I tried to ski here.

Other connections were also in play. The opening line “Ladies roll by…” got mentally paired with “Ladies On Parade” several songs later, so I knew the same graveyard setting should be revisited when that chapter rolled around. By this point I had a semblance of a plot to move forward, so the trick became how to overlay L Extreme onto A Love Extreme while staying true to both in a complementary fashion regardless of whether someone was introduced to the book or the music first.

A crazy balancing act, but a fun one!

Other tidbits:

  • A graveyard felt like the right setting for the next part of fake Halloween. I hadn’t worked out exactly what chased them (monster? neighbor? drone?), but linked the stars & planets imagery to a few interviews that referenced the UFO sighting at an outdoor Benji Hughes show witnessed by hundreds of people and it just clicked. (My favorite reader theory: it wasn’t a UFO, but a lamp that a neighbor threw so they’d stop being loud…)
  • 128 monsters was the number of Sesame Street monsters on the Muppets Wiki at the time I wrote this chapter as a nod to C’s namesake. (Apparently the count has since gone up.)
  • My boss/landlord/friend in LA owned a tea shop called “T” in West Hollywood. I

    Poorly photoshopped image of the actual rooftop cross that inspired this scene.

    lived diagonally across the street from an old Korean church that went on the market around the time he started thinking about opening a second location. I thought it was a perfect fit since it already had the name on the roof. Remembering that caused the busted steeple/cross forming an L to pop into my head.
  • “Trying to whip the stars into compliance” was personal slang for attempting to make the puzzle pieces of this project work during early drafts.
  • “Benjory” is a made up word (obviously) but captures the spirit of what’s happening so well both before you know the whole story and in medias res.
  • Most of the items collected trick-or-treating were included in something called “The Benji Hughes Kit” sold online with a flash drive bundling three digital albums. The flash drive itself is the only item I omitted so as not to be too meta. (I also couldn’t work out a use for it that wasn’t forced—though I did just find an old note that said “That flash drive from Halloween has even more albums on it.”)

    Limited edition set of goodies previously available for purchase outside of Halloween.

  • The remaining contents had a chicken and egg history to them: sometimes the objects were invented first and a use later followed; other times I’d figure out what I needed while writing a chapter and go back and plant it in the stash. As Benji says, “Some of this stuff may come in handy…”
  • Five-star instrumental jazz is a nod to the two instrumentals (dreams?) cowritten by Benji Hughes on the album A Thousand Kisses Deep by smooth-jazz trumpeter Chris Botti.
  • C’s proposed party invite list includes members of past real-life Benji Hughes bands, a literal riff on the “wait until your band gets back together” line from the song. Christian is the only exception. That’s not a real person, but a reason to sneak in an out of context lyrical reference to yet another classic.
  • Finishing this chapter was a struggle. I couldn’t find the right breakpoint to end on. Early beta reader feedback (correctly / astutely) said the interactions between C & Benji were funny but went on longer than necessary. I also had a longstanding tendency to want to go from A to B to C in my writing without omitting any character actions from the timeline. The lyrics clearly told me if I was waiting for a perfect section ending it was never gonna come. An abrupt pivot made sense—both to roll with the outro and to subliminally tease the larger change in direction coming soon…
  • Editorial aside: “Waiting For An Invitation” is one of the more common gateway Benji Hughes songs popularized by its inclusion in an episode of How I Met Your Mother (see video below).

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