I had a dream, where I was standing in an elaborate and elegant pub, with a rich, oak bar, and walls, and tables, chairs and booths that matched. It was crowded, and there were several young men around a pool table, smoking, jiving – part of the cheerful, slightly boisterous scene. It had a feel that was comfortable, a warm glow, and as sometimes happens, I decided to explore despite feeling it inadvisable, moving through the swinging entry doors into a dark hall. I passed a staircase and walked to the other side of what had become a basement, and in contrast to what I left, I found eerie, grime, and destruction. Water dripped down the back wall, and there was a sense of great uneasiness. I returned back to the bar, and the cheerful veneer was replaced with hostility and a sense of threat. I wound up in a closet with a man’s arm pressed against my neck, which was where I left the dream and woke.
As such dreams can sometimes do, there was residual uneasiness, and I considered the odd series of events for quite a while, or, however long it was until I fell asleep, again. But, it was considered, which is helpful when trying to remember dreams. When I woke, later in the morning, I remembered bits of it, and reflected, trying to remember more. I started thinking about scenarios that could justify the arrangement, and later that night, just started riffing on the leaky walls, a bit.
That was where Family man began, a novel riff with consideration of leaky walls and some minor conversation between two characters talking about them. By the end of the first chapter, the conversation set in place relationships and ideas to continue chasing down that eventually became a story:
History aside, it was perfect: A stately home in the lofty hills north of the university, one that sat unoccupied largely due to past events. It was in consideration before the doctor even saw the basement, but one look; he was convinced: A rare find falling to their price point with unique features and room to add more of their own.
The contractor saw things somewhat differently – saw the other side of the basement first, and it looked like a catastrophe. To him, it was a time-consuming project that needed significant improvement, and mold remediation – a problem festered by the moisture from the basement.
They got more than either one expected.
The history of the home crept in their lives from the moment of its purchase, a nagging irritation that turned tumultuous: The secrets of the home would not go quietly.
By the end of that first chapter – as it became – i had basic ideas and relationships settled, but many arrived as the story developed, and some of those ideas that trickled out as they were turned in conversation or rumination, resulted in some of the best vignettes in the story: The leaky wall that foretold greater mystery – that needed an explanation. Dr. Colgregg’s moment of truth with his wife and how that could possibly happen – a poignant explanation used to make a point.
The story grew from those little moments: Weird dream, odd explanation; awkward moment. Stephen King once said something along the lines of, he wants to finish writing his story so he knows how it ends, and Family man was very much written that way: It was a blast to toss around ideas and then find their explanation.