One of the things I’ve heard Judge Randy Jackson say during the last few seasons of American Idol is, “If you can sing, you can sing the phone book.” So I got to wondering, if you can write, can you write the phone book? Then, I started planning how I might just do that.
A few complications immediately surfaced. Way, way, way too many characters for starters. So the first thing I’d do is pick a phone book from a very small town –say two hundred folks. What kind of plot could involve that many people? Surely, they all couldn’t play an active role.
I decided I’d write a murder mystery where there’d be a lot of suspects. The victim would come from a Catholic family and the murder would take place during the annual 4th of July town picnic. I could include a single page of text with perhaps 100 residents that way. I’d have three point of view characters: the victim’s wife, the detective investigating the crime, and the murderer. That would still leave a fair number of people to mention.
Ah ha! The list could be wrong! Someone who wasn’t at the celebration, but who’s motive is revealed a few chapters. Thus, I could generate brand new long list of suspects – maybe 60 or so. A visit to Meg’s Diner at the outskirts of town where the murder weapon is found could knock off another 20 folks. That leaves seventeen memorable characters I’d have to develop in various subplots. I could accomplish such a feat. Yes, Randy, it can be done. If you can write, you can write the phone book.