My Writing Journey: Begin in the Middle, 1/11/2019
Remember that first entry in this series, in which I said I’d be refocusing my blog? There, I used a question and answer format that some folks seemed to like. While I’m not committing to that for every post (which is probably obvious by now), sometimes it’s a useful format. Let’s try it out again.
What kind of novel are you working on?
It’s an urban fantasy novel. If you’ve read my short story series “Asleep in Nara,” then you’re already familiar with the narrative universe and some of the characters. The short story serves as a prequel to this novel.
Neato! So how close are you to done?
Neato? Who talks like that? Sorry, sorry! I shouldn’t ridicule other people’s dialects; I’m from the South, so I know a thing or two about getting your dialect judged. I’m sorry. What was the question again?
How’s that novel coming along?
Oh, right. It’s good, I think. I have a complete draft, a little over 100K words, but I’m not happy with it. It’s narrated in first-person, but I want to change it to third-person, which will be a lot more complex than just changing every “I” to “he.”
In fact, I recently had a revelation as I was trying to peacefully drift off to sleep, and I’m now considering an incredibly complex reorganization strategy for the text.
Why change the narrative perspective?
That’s based on some reader feedback. No one came right out and suggested that change, but everyone had the same kinds of questions about the story. There’s a lot of mystery built into the universe, and just about every character is keeping their cards close to the chest. That constant keeping of secrets is confusing to readers who aren’t in my head and don’t have access to the world-building documents I keep.
Yeah, but couldn’t you just have characters speak more openly? Is switching the narrative perspective the best idea?
Sometimes, sure I could just reveal some of those minor mysteries I was holding onto. However, largely, I want characters to keep secrets. It makes sense in the universe. And, yeah, I think switching to third-person is best. I’ll have more artistic license and won’t be confined by the kinds of images, diction, or syntax that the current narrator has.
I was waffling on this narrator perspective decision until I re-read a passage of “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner. If you’re not familiar, Faulkner’s story is about an elderly woman and her inability to move on and accept the reality of a modernizing South. Her father is at least partly to blame; he ran every suitor off and cloistered his daughter in the home. Here’s how the townspeople remembered Emily and her father:
We had long thought of them as a tableau, Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the back-flung front door.
The line gives me chills. There is literally no movement at all in that image, yet it is powerfully evocative. The father never cracks his horsewhip, but the reader knows it has been used and will be used again on the next boy who shows up to court his daughter. The daughter, meanwhile, cowers in the background, in the shadow of her violent father, trapped in his house and in the worldview that house represents. The suggestion of his physical abuse of her would-be suitors amplifies the psychological abuse Emily suffers. And he does a number on that poor girl. In adulthood, she still keeps a crayon portrait of the man on display in front of the fireplace. Talk about arrested development.
I’m not saying I’ll ever produce anything that’s worth even a fraction of the quality Faulkner consistently turned out, but as a writer, he inspires me. So I’m switching my novel to third-person, and I’m going to explore my own images and not be bound by the ones my characters can fathom.
I guess I should go read “A Rose for Emily” now?
Yeah, you totally should. It’s fantastic, and it’s actually quite short. I’ll even make it convenient for you. Find the full text here.
So what’s the plan?
The plan changed recently. It has a funny way of doing that. I need to read some more stuff, plan some more, and then write and revise some more. I’ll update you all as I proceed.
One last question: How did your progress go this week?
Progress is the wrong word. I struggled all week. Besides watching football on Monday night and playing games with my friend Wednesday night, I mostly just worked and slept. It was rough. Last night, I was frustrated with myself for finally having free time and not being able to work up the motivation to read or write. I just did some mindless level-grinding in a video game. All I wanted to do was zone out.
Wow. That’s not what I was expecting.
Hey, I promised I would be honest. Let’s celebrate the small victories, though. Here are the things I did accomplish this week:
I read about 3 pages of a book I need to work my way through.
I started tentatively reorganizing my novel.
I spoke with a friend about that reorganization process.
I started a blog on Medium. For now, I’m mostly migrating Steemit entries over there and intend to keep up both blogs. I don’t know if I’ll include these writing journey entries over there. I’m not abandoning Steemit, nor have I lost complete faith in the blockchain; I’m just trying to build a bigger audience.
Thanks for reading, folks.
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