Stone Motel - Memoirs of a Cajun Boy

Morris Ardoin

Book Cover

GENRE

MEMOIR LGBT

    Core Theme

    COMING OF AGE/FAMILY

    TIME PERIOD

    1960s & '70s,1980s & '90s

    COMPARABLE TITLES

    BOY ERASED: A MEMOIR, OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS

    CHARACTER LIST

    MORRIS ARDOIN: 10-16, SWEET, KIND-HEARTED, EMPATHETIC, COMPLEX, INSECURE, TIMID.

    ZANNY - MORRI’S FATHER. A HARD, ABUSIVE MAN WHO TAKES HIS ANGER OUT ON HIS CHILDREN AND SUBSCRIBES TO STRICT IDEAS ABOUT MASCULINITY.

    ELIZA MAE - MORRIS’ LOVING MOTHER. SHE GAVE EVERYTHING SHE HAD FOR HER CHILDREN AND WANTED TO LEAVE ZANNY, BUT NEVER GOT THE CHANCE. SHE WAS KILLED IN A CAR CRASH.

    CASSIE - MORRIS’ SISTER. SHE IS MUSICALLY INCLINED, DETERMINED, AND SNEAKY.

    GLENDA AND GILDA - MORRIS’ TWIN SISTERS. BOTH ARE INCREDIBLY SKILLED AT SPORTS, PASSIONATE, AND COMPETITIVE.

    ANDY - MORRIS’ BROTHER WHO SUFFERED FROM HEALTH PROBLEMS AS A KID BUT GREW OUT OF THEM. AN INTENSE AND STOIC BOY WHO LOVES NATURE.

    Logline

    Cajun La., '70s: Zanny Ardoin has a lot on his mind: half of the motel he’s just begun to pay for is destroyed by fire; he and his wife have 10 mouths to feed; and there’s something just not right about their middle child, Morris, who is just beginning to realize he's not like the others.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 55+,35-54,18-34,13-17

    Target Gender: LGBT Leaning,Male Leaning,Female Leaning,Universal

    Setting

    Cajun Country, Louisiana / Bayous, Swamps, Mardi Gras / 1970s

    Based on a True Story

    Yes

    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: University Press of Mississippi

    Year Published: 2020

    Starting Description

    Pre-teen Cajun boys Morris and Dickie Ardoin are playing outside with Ayla Jane, a child belonging to a family staying in one of their motel's kitchenettes. The scene sets up a common occurrence for the Ardoin children: they befriend the kids of "long-timer" customers in their roadside motel.

    Ending Description

    After 30 years running the business and raising a large family, the boys' dad, Zanny, is reluctantly led away from his beloved motel to spend his final years, mostly alone, in a nursing home. For years as Morris grew up, Zanny had unsuccessfully tried to "fix" his son, who he suspected was gay.

    Group Specific

    Cajuns/Southerners/Food Enthusiasts/Child Abuse Advocates/LGBT+

    Hard Copy Available

    Yes

    ISBN

    9781496827722

    Mature Audience Themes

    Extreme Violence

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Meaningful Message,Philosophical Questions

    Plot - Premise

    Overcoming Monster/Villain,Internal Journey/Rebirth,Tragedy

    Main Character Details

    Name: Morris Ardoin

    Age: 10-16

    Gender: Other

    Role: Protagonist

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Aspiring,Clumsy,Complex,Empathetic,Engaging,Gracious,Educated,Insecure,Naive,Underdog,Secretive,Sarcastic,Funny,Outspoken,Modest

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Zanny Ardoin, father

    Age: 50

    Gender: Male

    Role: Antagonist

    Key Traits: Aggressive,Complex,Confident,Faithful,Heroic,Masculine,Uneducated,Blunt,Skillful,Sarcastic,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Ortense Thompson, Grandmother

    Age: 75+

    Gender: Female

    Role: mentor

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Badass,Charming,Complex,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Gracious,Heroic,Honorable,Insecure,Uneducated,Blunt,Selfless,Outspoken,Skillful,Funny,Unapologetic

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Eliza, Mother

    Age: 48

    Gender: Female

    Role: emotional

    Key Traits: Charming,Clumsy,Complex,Desperate,Empathetic,Engaging,Faithful,Gracious,Insecure,Underdog,Modest,Selfless,Skillful,Funny

    Development Pitch

    This is the true story of Morris Ardoin, a gay preteen; his seven siblings; bigoted and violent dad; overwhelmed mother; unstoppable grandmother; and a sordid mix of customers they encounter at their little motel in hot, buggy, Cajun Louisiana in the ’70s. A week before Christmas half of the motel burns in a brutal fire. The Ardoins scramble to get back on their feet and get things going again. The fire rekindles the dad, Zanny’s long-repressed violent nature. He aims his most frequent and ferocious attacks at Morris. The preteen soon learns that his dad can’t accept a gay or “broken” son. It becomes Zanny’s mission to “fix” Morris, and Morris’s mission to survive intact. The boy is aided in his struggle immeasurably by the love and encouragement of a selfless and generous grandmother, Ortense, who provides the story with much of its warmth, wisdom, and humor. This is a detailed, colorful peek into a pocket of American culture–the Louisiana Cajuns in the late ’60s to mid-’70s–before cable TV, microwave ovens, and fast food homogenized it all. This story is relatable to young adults struggling to understand their sexual orientation; to be accepted in an unaccepting time and place. As a film or TV series, the motel setting and the joie-de-vivre of the Cajuns provide a more enchanting, uplifting version of “The Florida Project,” while the gay pre-teen’s struggle to survive his father’s violence calls to mind the heart-wrenching pain and ultimate triumph of “Boy Erased."

    Genre

    DRAMA

    Brief

    Zanny Ardoin, a conservative and harsh man, decides to buy a motel to start a new business and be able to feed his 8 kids. One of his kids, Morris, is gay and has to face the retrograde and violent side of his dad. After 30 years, the motel is closed because Zanny is too old to take care of the business by himself.

    Overall Rating

    GOOD

    Point of View

    FIRST PERSON

    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: GOOD

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: GOOD

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: GOOD

    Premise: EXCELLENT

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    It does.

    Draw of Story

    It's well written, and the story is very engaging. Morris' memoirs are vivid and interesting to "listen to," and we feel compelled to follow the journey of this family.

    Possible Drawbacks

    Nothing. From the beginning, you want to know what will happen to Morris, the motel, and the family.

    Use of Special Effects

    THE STORY RELIES A LITTLE BIT ON SPECIAL EFFECTS

    Primary Hook of Story

    There are some different hooks. This family trying to survive during a crisis time starting a new business. Family relations and interactions. A gay man struggling to face the prejudice of society in a time people would believe that homosexuality was "fixable."

    Fanbase Potential

    For sure. It talks about braveness in front of difficulties and the will to survive. The protagonist is also likable enough to be remarkable.

    Awards Potential

    It has potential for Awards. The homosexuality theme is very relevant and necessary nowadays, and the story is told in a beautiful yet realistic way.

    Envisioned Budget

    MEDIUM BUDGET

    Similar Films/TV Series

    BOY ERASED - A CONSERVATIVE FATHER DOESN'T ACCEPT HIS SON'S SEXUALITY AND TRIES TO "HEAL" HIM. FAIR HAVEN - A FATHER FORCES HIS SON TO TAKE CARE OF THE FAMILY'S BUSINESS AND DOESN'T ACCEPT HIS SON'S HOMOSEXUALITY.

    What’s New About the Story

    It's told by the perspective (and memoirs) of different characters, so you get to know and understand a little of their attitudes and decisions.

    Lead Characters

    Morris is a likable character. And the fact that it's a true story makes the main character and the other members of the family more credible.

    Uniqueness of Story

    Not a rare gem because there are other movies like this, but it's a good story that could find its own audience.

    Possible Formats

    Film - Studio, Film - Streaming, TV Series - Cable, TV Series - Limited Run / Mini-Series

    Analyst Recommendation

    RECOMMEND

    Justification

    It's an engaging story based on true memories, which make it even more reliable, more intimate, and unique. The story is told from different perspectives, which has the power to diminish the villain-hero relationship and provides human characteristics to these characters. We get to know them better, so we can, at least, understand their way of thinking. The author is the protagonist. He lived all those memoirs and struggled to face a prejudiced society, so the story feels reliable, more complete, and complex. The motel is a good background for this family's struggles. The business decay also visually represents the dismantlement of a past that changed these "kid's" lives for good. The theme (homosexuality) is very relevant and necessary. The author approaches the subject with the needed tenderness, avoiding major clichés. The historical side (a Post-War era) is well-built but not based on facts and dates and names. It is based on these people's memoirs of history. The pace and structure feel correct and having the author as a source of research would surely help the production. Of course, the book has some unnecessary parts, less relevant memoirs that should be removed from the audiovisual piece. Also, dialogue and some actions could be developed, improved, but overall, it's a good story.

    Brief

    Morris Ardoin looks back on his bittersweet childhood in Cajun Country in the 70s, spent with his many siblings and abusive father as their family ran a local motel.

    What We Liked

    This book features an incredibly interesting and engaging writing style, an honest and likable narrator in Morris, and a constantly riveting plot that ebbs and flows with the writer’s life experiences. There’s a quality about this project that feels almost stream of consciousness. That quality contributes to how earnest, real, and authentic these experiences all feel. It’s impossible to guess where this book is going next, and it makes for a memoir that surprisingly keeps readers on the edge of their seats.

    Film: Because this book is so structurally loose, it would need a little structural work before it worked as a feature film, but the potential is definitely there. Morris is an excellent protagonist and narrator, and watching these characters grow up would provide the feature with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. There are a number of climactic pivotal moments that would make this book a perfect feature film adaptation filled with complex relationships, the love of family, and bittersweet childhood memories.

    TV: This book is perfectly primed for TV adaptation. The world is wide open and full of episodic possibilities. There is also such a huge cast of interesting characters. It’s easy to imagine this world being fully explored through many seasons of television that focus on the family drama between characters, Morris’ exploration of his sexuality, and the interesting everyday moments spent at the motel.

    Key points:
    1. Excellent characters.
    2. Nuanced and complex family relationships.
    3. Strong writing style.
    4. Engaging plot.
    5. Honest and powerful exploration of core themes.

    Synopsis

    We follow young Morris as he and his family break horses, cruise in their new Cadillac, buy the motor hotel from the Melancons’ and learn that it will be the family’s new home and workplace, play canasta with siblings around the dining room table, and trace the start of peace and calm in the world back to staying at Memere’s house. After a series of renovations, the family begins to settle in the motel. But tragedy strikes when it catches fire around the holidays. The family gets out safely, but there’s a significant amount of damage to the hotel. Thankfully though, the motel still stood, as did the house where the family was living.

    The family and the motel were never quite the same though. When Morris chiseled a piece of stone from the burnt hotel column, his father whipped him as punishment. Soon after, Morris met Billy Joe, Memere’s new man who she found after the death of her beloved husband. Billy Joe was engaging enough, but he drank and was often cruel to Memere. On a hunting trip with Andy and his father, Morris saw his father as a hero when he successfully drove their Apache to safety through the pouring rain after a hunting trip. Daddy was a hard, intense man, but he loved his children and they loved him. Morris didn’t particularly enjoy hunting, and when he came face to face with a vulnerable doe, he found he couldn’t pull the trigger. Morris enjoyed going crabbing more and called it a perfect day. The happiness didn’t last long. After a particularly brutal beating from his father Morris went to stay with Memere for a while.

    When he got back, life went on. The kids played cards, did chores, Morris fetched candy and groceries from the store and his sister cleaned the motel, and they all had various interactions with guests of the motel. Most customers didn’t leave a mark, but Morris explains that some of them were incredibly memorable, such as the couple who abandoned their cat at the motel, the man who was actually a woman, and the man who died of a heart attack in his car.

    In a chapter from Zanny’s perspective, readers learn that he suspects Morris of being “soft” and he plans to force him to be a proper man. Morris and the other kids realize that their father is hard on Morris, but they don’t know why. They discuss this fact over a game of Monopoly, while Morris tells them about helping their ailing elderly neighbor eat five spoonfuls of soup.

    In another July adventure, the kids all help a neighbor pick figs and Morris reflects on the fact that long after both his parents were dead and buried, there were still a couple of jars of figs in the pantry.

    At a summer camping trip, the kids bonded with their Uncle Roy and learned all kinds of details about their father. Uncle Roy was masculine and tough, and he made Morris feel anxious about his own lack of masculinity. Before heading home on the eve of Thanksgiving, Morris was able to shoot a squirrel though, which made him feel a little better. On the way home, Morris couldn’t hold his bladder and peed before making it to the toilet. He was so relieved though that he felt blissfully happy instead of embarrassed.

    In an effort to be more like Andy, Morris went out with his brothers to try and catch a wild hog. They didn’t catch one, but the day did make Morris appreciate his big brother as someone who has always looked out for him.

    At 14, Morris kissed a visiting girl. It was a thrill, but it eventually made him realize and become okay with how few kisses he would share with the opposite sex.

    At 15, Morris asked his mother for a job at the National. While there as a cashier, Morris became smitten with another male employee. He knew then that he was never going to get married and have kids. He was headed for another path. Soon after getting his job, Morris was able to buy a car. The independence changed his life.

    Memere’s life changed too. After 10 years of abuse and alcoholism, she finally left Billy Joe. But loneliness plagued her and made her consider taking him back.

    With age, the siblings started to go down their own paths and mature. Gilda hit her head in a car accident, but she was ultimately fine. The kids all realized their days of sitting around the kitchen table playing games were over.

    When Morris went off to school at LSU in Baton Rouge, he would come home on the weekends and spend time with his family. During an evening with his mother, she revealed that she had wanted to leave Morris’ abusive father for years and that she desperately wanted to sell the motel. It wasn’t meant to be though, and soon after, she died in a terrible car accident. It was her fault. She just hadn’t been paying attention.

    All of the family mourned Eliza Mae in different ways, and Memere had to go live in a nursing home. When Morris went there to say goodbye to Memere, he brought David, the man he was with. He wanted Memere to know he wasn’t alone, that he had someone to love.

    Years later, the kids would have Zanny put in an assisted living home. He just wasn’t capable of taking care of the motel anymore. In an epilogue, Morris recalls his final meeting with his father and what became of his siblings. Because of his family, his heart is full.

    About The Author

    Morris Ardoin now lives in Manhattan and Cornwallville, New York with his husband and their dog. His career and life have been filled with writing working with a number of nonprofit organizations, travel, and cooking.