Saturday, January 20, 2007

3 a.m.

I've always liked this hour. In my wilder days, it's when I'd go to Quality Pie for breakfast after the bars closed. In my less frantic years, it's when I often get up after crashing early to do a bit of work. Everything is quiet and still. The dog loves to hop into bed and take my warm spot, and when I return for a few more zzz's after writing, I'll have to nudge him over to make room for me.

I had planned to work on act two of Baumholder but instead responded to some story matters regarding Julie's novel, which I'm brainstorming with her. Spent about an hour on that, and now I may return to bed. I like to listen to Scott Simon at 5.

Today is free, and I should be able to make more progress working out the sequence cards of the new novel. Sally, alas, is in a holding pattern, as complex work often is, off and on, through its difficult development. I'm not abandoning it, just setting it aside in the heat of new excitement for my long belated Army novel. I think I have found the key this time, after numerous false starts over the past thirty or forty years. Bringing together those three experiences: the Berlin wall extensions, the defection, the local Nazis farmers. I have personal experience about the dramatic elements that will drive this story.

I also like the way the structure is developing. Looking for the buddy, trying to talk sense to him, intermingled with flash backs of how they got there.

What is yet unresolved is the voice. Which, of course, is pretty much everything in a novel. I typically am leaning toward choices that reduce the commercial appeal of this, always bending toward art rather than commerce, it's a damn disease with me ha ha. I may take some real risks with the voice and try things I've never tried before. A kind of pompous Norman Mailer voice. A dark voice. We are in, after all, the Sin City of Europe for this story. Greed, corruption, exploitation, sex, it's all here with our blue-eyed earnest young Americans from the heartland as witness first and soon enough participants. Baumholder is the corruption of American Gothic.

So what I'll be doing is trying out first paragraphs in different voices. Or maybe only first sentences! For example, "May the gods protect the Mothers of America from learning what their blue-eyed sons are up to in the Enlisted Men's Club tonight." This is the opening rattling in my brain at the moment. The thought may belong to the narrative voice ("God") -- or to a character, say a sergeant who enters the going-home party with the news that Kennedy just extended the poor SOB.

I'll know it when I get something that sounds right to me. But I think the voice here will be as defining as the voice in, say, The Sound and the Fury, a voice-defined story. The way the story is told is as important as the story itself.

This is going to be a fun, challenging journey. Onward.

1 comment:

George said...


It's comforting to read about someone doing what I'm struggling to do -- write a novel. First draft is behind me, and I'm into revisions. Man, it isn't easy. I salute those who make it look that way, who can crank out novels like Hershey does candy bars. Some of them are entertaining reads. I understand the importance of narrative voice -- even have a book devoted to nothing but that -- and use third person with an occasional dash of epistolary and omniscient.

BTW, my story's about an apostate Fed chairman.