Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Creating Unforgettable Protagonists—Creating Condo Joe

It wasn’t the moment I received the letter from the publisher that they had accepted my manuscript, nor was it the moment when I held the newly published manuscript in my hand.

“Condo Joe” was the first official novella I had written. It was also the first novella I had written that I had actually felt something for the main character, in this case Condo Joe. It was a major moment in my journey as a writer and a moment I know I will never forget.

The inspiration for “Condo Joe” came from Charleston, SC, more specifically The Morris Island Lighthouse of Folly Beach, James Island, but I had not actually begun the novella until I had returned to my home town New Castle, PA.

We are all familiar with Dicken’s “The Christmas Carol” or “The Grinch that Stole Christmas”. The more I wrote “Condo Joe” the more it reminded me of “The Christmas Carol” and it could easily have been entitled “The Grinch Who Stole Folly Beach”. Titles are everything. Things changed when I had flipped the title from “Joe Condo”, a title with not much of a ring to it, to “Condo Joe”. Much better.

Anyway, I had finished “Condo Joe” and immediately sensed a sequel. It was a sequel that I had not anticipated, but nonetheless, it was a sequel I had felt very strongly about writing. I would call the sequel “Condo Joe: King of Carnival”.

In “King of Carnival” Condo Joe is elected major of Charleston. One of Condo Joe’s major accomplishments is completely restoring The Morris Island Lighthouse. The only thing that had gone wrong with the project involved the lighthouse’s windows—one had to be slightly relocated. The citizens of Charleston were not too thrilled about it at first until engineering had explained that the window had to be relocated to preserve lighthouse’s structural integrity.

At the time Charleston is on the verge of bankruptcy—Condo Joe used his own money to restore the lighthouse. The only hope Condo Joe has of saving Charleston was found its history with pirates, in this case Stede Bonnet, the “Gentleman Pirate” who had been hung in Charleston in White Point Garden.

Condo Joe had heard a rumor that Bonnet had buried treasure on Folly Beach. The problem was no one knew where he had buried it if it was, in fact, buried there.

Well, Condo Joe knows the City of Charleston does not have the funds to dig up the entire beach for the treasure chest, so he has to explore other options.

Well, I am not going to go into the entire story, only to say that it involves Condo Joe, of course, the Charleston Mermen minor league baseball cheerleaders, and Condo Joe’s angry ex-wife who wants to destroy the lighthouse with a missile.

Well, the missile reaches the shores of Folly Beach and The Morris Island Lighthouse, but, due to its trajectory, the missile actually misses the lighthouse, going right through its windows. The missile does leave a huge creator on Folly Beach, which in turns uncovers an object of what Condo Joe and the people of Charleston think is the treasure chest.

Condo Joe, too excited to think, ventures down into the creator, discovering that the buried object is, indeed, the treasure chest. Unfortunately as he tries to climb up out of it its walls begin caving in.

This is where I had my moment as writer. I could not believe how attached I had become to Condo Joe. There was a strong possibility that Condo Joe would not make it out of the creator, and I did not want him to die! It was a very emotional moment for me. I had not planned it, but I had become attached to Condo Joe, which meant I had done something right as a writer.

Now, I am not going telling you how the sequel to “Condo Joe” ends, but I will say that the moment he is climbing for his life from the creator, I had a choice to make, and I wondered if it would make or break the story.

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