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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, October 24, 2005

it's just my project

Kimmie still on vacation, still enjoying lying in bed in the morning reading and drinking the coffee I bring her. And in the dark of morning I work at pushing my narrative ahead. Still at chapter 19. I wrote a bit more Rome material, then gave in to my gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with my own understanding of the story of this chapter.

I feel confident about what will happen; it's the issue of the underlying feelings and motivations. This is the effort that I habitually avoid, habitually tell myself has already been done: the brute-force thinking-through of what formative thoughts and feelings have been going on in my character prior to the raising of the curtain on the action of the scene at hand. It's a lonely chore, one that makes me feel inadequate to my task.

It can feel mechanical, this inventory of the stages of a character's attitudes, but it's important, especially for a scene that is after a significant gap of story time. The reader needs to feel a continuity of thought and feeling with a character.

I came up with some OK ideas and scrolled to the beginning of the chapter to rejig the material, cramming in the new ideas. I don't enjoy this, adding new or different ideas into recently written first draft. My writing usually has its own logical flow, and shoehorning in a different slant does violence to it. I don't like tinkering with first draft in any case (although I do it fairly often). But if I feel I've seriously missed an important idea or quality, I can't rest with what's there; I must fix it.

I still worry about this project. At odd times of the day, something will remind me of a problem I have with it. The vagueness and possibly underpowering of Menahem's motivation in this chapter was one such. I will gasp, or grab my head and utter something like "Ach!" Kimmie, alarmed, will ask what's the matter.

"It's just my project," I say.

Kimmie says "aw," and pats my arm.

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