In Dec. 2012, I started The Blogger, a digital epistolary novel, which probably isn’t but best I could find was the first of its kind. I’d just read Perks of Being a Wallflower and wanted to do similar things, updated and using blog posts. After over a year of my blog-story that would become Eidolons, I had that experience that I could mix with some things from my own childhood. I’d read up on Lonelygirl15. I was still loving The Catcher in the Rye’s depiction of an anxious character that needed help, was crying out for it, but wasn’t getting it.
I tried to do clever things like with it like include the time stamp of the blog and the comments. First few chapters were inconsistent—five in a week, then a month without, then getting more consistent, all as he has in-person engagements that supersede the blog’s importance and then a social dry spell where he posts more. It felt meta and characterizing of his life in a way that you couldn’t directly address in normal prose without basically putting in a neon sign—what this is since the book’s not out and probably not coming out since it never got finished completely and sadly many chapters were lost in forgotten file transfers between computers and just poor labeling and then I had a backup issue where all my word documents got corrupted, either being unopenable or being offset in the hard drive. Like I’d try to open Doc1 and it’d actually open Doc3, but they weren’t named Doc1 and Doc3 so if I wrote a chapter not knowing where it’d go but the contents were memorable, I’d name it Horse, but after the hard drive issue, I’d open Horse and get Pig and open Pig and get Strap-on and oy! if I ever wanted to show someone something on my computer.
Every chapter also ended with a comment section that slowly started filling up as people found him. He never got famous for his blog, but he found an online community. Ji Soo found it and shared it with online friend Gino who shared it with boyfriend Michael and childhood friend Sam and they all start interacting with Oscar, the writer. There were social circles in the comments that sometimes would expand and crossover if those commenters were more people persons or they’d stay cliqueish if they were more introverted. Which happens pretty early so you don't lose interest in Oscar. They give another perspective on when Oscar describes his new online friend, Sam. He might describe her as X but then he copies and pastes a portion of the conversation and she seems vaguely X but then she comments and the more you see her, you realize she's more ECSTATIC. There’s not really an X in there. But you can see how he’d understand her as X.
And pairing the time stamps with the comments added more depth that I never quite felt satisfied with but Oscar met Gino. What a big deal. For two online friends to meet. One was 14 and the other 17. Not a big age difference. And Gino was the heaviest commenter and Oscar might respond in comments or bring up Gino a lot so, clearly they’re best friends. On November 1st, after Oscar’s been consistently updating the blog once a week, he says how he’s excited to meet Gino soon. Gino’s in the comments saying he’s excited too. Everyone else is excited for them. Joking around.
“Are you two going to kiss?^^”
“This isn’t your fanfic!”
Then Nov. 5th, Gino comments saying how fun it was and then Nov 10th and after, people comment like “You still alive, Oscar?” because the next chapter is an empty blog post and the next next chapter was Oscar admitting how anxious it made him leading up to the meet up and how it was fun but afterward, he was second guessing everything and suddenly it was real and he felt pressure for this blog to be something different now because maybe in previous posts he had fudged details a little but by meeting with someone, they knew the story, too, and they could call him on any bullshit or anything he got wrong. Maybe he wanted to post, “It was a lot of fun,” but then Gino might be like, “Yeah, I guess that was okay.” And Oscar just hadn’t been prepared for how it’d change things for him and that bothered him a lot, but after Gino comments and after talking to Gino one-on-one and other people, he realizes he’s just worrying for nothing. Things are still the same, essentially, or better now. But he also feels regret that he passed up the opportunity to meet with someone else who was from another country, traveling in America, not to meet him, but that would’ve been cool, the offer was there, and he missed the chance out of fear. And that story is also told in the comments where they used to comment a lot but stopped after the rejection.
So after this ordeal, Oscar tries to be more adventurous when these opportunities come up. One of the commenters is actually pretty close to him distance-wise and Oscar misses an update but the friend comments it’s because they were having so much fun and Oscar wasn’t near a computer. It’s the two-way pull of living a life worth telling people about versus telling people about the life, and for once, he’s choosing to live rather than tell.
Things are on the up-and-up and a good story can’t just be happy so one of the online friends, Cricket, a girl, he talks about a lot but she never comments except once when he copy-pasted a bit of their skype conversation that Oscar found funny and she comments to tell him to remove her screenname. He does, putting REDACTED in its place in the blog, and he apologizes flippantly in the comments and she says it’s fine but maybe in a tone that it’s not fine and he apologizes again but very serious.
They’re planning a meet-up.
Cricket’s from Florida but she’s working with her dad, a photographer, on a commercial shoot for Nike and her life seems so glamorous to him even though she’s only a few years older, planning for college, and she smokes pot and drinks and her dad lets her and she likes exposing Oscar to new things because he’s not close-minded like other boys his age. And maybe they’ve been messing around on Skype. She doesn’t have a webcam but obviously, in her business, has a camera and Oscar has a webcam and they’ve been enjoying each other’s company.
But when they go to meet up at a Denny’s, Oscar’s older brother driving him as he always does because Oscar is 14/15 throughout the story and to be safe, Cricket isn’t there.
Or maybe she was but the girl he’d seen in the photos wasn’t and no one came up to him saying, “Hey, I’m Cricket. Do I look different in person?” The brothers waited for a long time, joking about time zones or sleeping in, then eventually leaving a tip and going home.
Oscar writes a blog post about it, self-effacing.
“My brother asked if I told her the right Denny’s and I was like, ‘We have more than one Denny’s? *Why?*’ But I did! I swear. I checked like ten times. I told her the address—don’t dare say I didn’t, Cricket! I checked! But our streets are pretty shitty for non-locals. I can’t even navigate them. Totally the only reason I don't drive. Not because it's illegal.”
And a few chapters later, Cricket responds with some bullshit excuse of she felt sick or scared when she saw his brother and he can’t quite get a straight story out of her and she’s not really saying a lot in her defense, just kind of putting the blame on him and saying “if ur gonna to be a baby abou tit, then fuck off?? i flew all that way to meet u Thats expensive, u no”
And eventually things settle down between them and Oscar takes the blame because he doesn’t have many opportunities for sexy time in real life or online so he wants what he can get, even if he’s soured to her after this, and she exploits that, but tips off Oscar that maybe she’s been lying and maybe he’s getting catfished and he was actually in a pretty dangerous situation and if his brother hadn’t been there…
Oscar obsesses over this, too. Things he did with her. Or for her. If it was the same her that she showed him. If it was even a her. How old they were. Their name. It wrecks him in the final chapters.
Maybe people who just meet him see this not-nice person that he’s become and don’t stick around, some of his old friends understanding, some not, some leaving. Maybe he starts doing shitty things online because if they can, why can’t he?
I wanted to do things like have him open an investigation with the police, maybe have the person caught, maybe leave the case unsolved and the trauma without closure, but I never quite knew how to do that well. It was also causing me a lot of anxiety as I got deeper into the catfishing story and the anxious character. You can see how manic he gets because he's a hummingbird and when that nervous energy turns in on him, turns destructive, it was hard for me to decompress after writing.
It had a lot of potential. Clearly I wasn’t ready to write it, skill-wise and emotionally. But some good chapters and characters came out of it so I go back to it, in my head, sometimes.