Writer's Commentary: Joe Rey

On Post: Joe Rey

Date: January 25
I really like this song.
That said, as a song to inspire an original piece of writing, it was not very helpful.

A song that is good fodder to spin a story out of is hard to describe. Too vague or symbolic gives you no foundation. Too specific and story-telling-y (word? WHO CARES?) and there is nowhere to go because the song has already done everything for you. Joe Rey is more of the latter. It is a character sketch of Joe Rey that describes him well, certainly, but it does not really give you a sense of his personality so it’s hard to place him in a world.

I initially considered going the Maniac Magee route with it and having him be a sort of local legend. However, the song more or less already does that. Having a few more people echo those points does not for an interesting read make. So then I thought of where Joe Rey and the narrator are and figured it is probably high school.

And what is high school like? High school is a world where everyone assumes someone, if not most people have it better, are happier, and/or are crushing life a lot better than they are. So the narrator—who ended up being Chris in the piece because the songwriter is named Chris and that struck me as a smart idea at the time—resents Rey for what he perceives as Rey’s advanced social standing.

But how does Rey view Chris? Given the circle of assumption, jealous, resentment, etc that school can sometimes be, it is conceivable that everything that makes Chris think Rey has it easy Rey himself dislikes. Rey stands out, all he wants to do is blend in. Rey carries with him the thrill of the new, but he’d prefer to be comfortable and well known. Rey goes cool places and does cool things while wishing he could just stay home and go to a house party with classmates. And so on. Chris and Joe actually feel, more or less, the same about each other, but their social strata and assumptions guarantee that neither will ever really know that.

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