Thursday, August 24, 2006

End Game

I'm coming to the end of the novella I began writing a year or more ago. I think I've one last section to write, before I go onto the rewrites. Not that rewriting should take that much, since I've been doing that as I've gone along. For once I had a story with quite a rigid structure and therefore the main issues I had were about tone and voice. There were also a couple of issues I had to decide which relate, I guess, to reader's expectations. I've often written in the "localised third person" almost following the main character round like an invisible camera crew. It can work well, but it can also restrict, if you're not careful. The most famous example is probably "Crime and Punishment." The problem I face is that even though it's 3rd person, the concentration on one character's perspective and thoughts mean that it can become quite insular - and you'd have to be a far better writer than I am, to make a pure train of thoughts interesting. I write to tell a story, as much as any higher aims, and making sure that story has enough concrete detail, and that the cast of characters is controlled, has been the difficult thing in writing this novella. Sensibly, I think, I've brought back some of those characters introduced earlier in the story, to play a pivotal part in the final scene. It's a contrivance in some ways - but necessary. In something of this length - I figure it will end up as around 25,000 words - there's little room for anything other than brief character sketches except for the main character, and his (offstage) wife. She's even more difficult, in some ways, because it's her absence during the week that the story takes place, which creates the story, and I've thought long and hard whether she should remain an offstage presence. But this is fiction, not drama (although I've imagined it in my head as a 3-act piece), and so I think she has to appear. She's already there - in voice on the telephone, and so is an existing character in the novel, albeit disembodied; she's not then a Godot, or an offstage comic sitcom spouse. The novella is funny in parts, but it also has a fair share of action. This morning, I found myself writing what I hope is a realistic fight scene, with 2 male duos up against each other. It struck me, writing this scene, how it's not just about the main character's actions, but that the whole story is about masculinity; and, more than that, how men define themselves in terms of their self worth. At various stages in the story, the main character is defined by his workplace, by his possessions, by his "perfect" marriage, by his attractiveness to other women, by him being able to take his drink, by him having a one-night stand, by him being in control of situations, and finally, I guess, by him being able to use his fists. None of these, in the end, will be enough, and it's almost like in the week when his wife's away, the character goes through a series of "tests" to see what kind of man he really is. The ending, which I've yet to write, will hopefully answer that. Given this, it will be interesting to see, when it's complete, what both male and female readers think of it. I don't think of myself as a particular macho writer, yet I choose these subjects.

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