Friday, April 22, 2011

At Last: a Murder!

I know, work-in-progress updates are very cliche and dull, yet here's one anyway. I'm now 12,588 words into The Last Guest, my "everything but a detective novel, packed into a detective novel," and I have at long last produced a corpse. I should produce an excerpt for you, but now is not the time. Anyway, I'm happy enough with the the novel so far.

Structurally, for those of you who care about these things, we've moved beyond the introduction and are about to embark on the phase of the story known as The False Detective. What larks are in store! Statues and meat lockers and threats and lessons in detection from a curious foreign woman!


Domey Malasarn said...
Is the lark the murderer?
Anne Gallagher said...
Well, you have an impressive word count. Mine is still the same. Spring break was this week and Monster Child was home. However, I will rally.

As for the curious foreign woman, I hope she's French. I love curious French women.
Dawn Kurtagich said...
Yay for rigamortis!
Michelle Davidson Argyle said...
Aww, I do so love excerpts...even though you refuse to read mine, Mr. Bailey. *wink*

I'm glad a dead body arrived. :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

David Lawrence, Thoughts on Voice and Me

I have only read two works by D.H. Lawrence: the short story Rockinghorse Winner and the novel Women In Love. The short story, while memorable and well-written, never really made itself felt on my own writing. But Women In Love, which gave me a bit of trouble when I read it, has apparently influenced my prose.

If you had told me while I was reading that book that a year later I'd be seeing Lawrence's fingerprints on my writing, I'd have been surprised and maybe a little huffy. There's a clumsy matter-of-factness to a lot of Lawrence's writing that makes me uncomfortable. Still, these days I often find myself wanting to read more of Lawrence's novels because even though his prose doesn't flow the way I want mine to flow, the guy was The Real Deal and with the passage of time I begin to not only see his influence on all sorts of writers (A.S. Byatt, certainly, and likely everyone else writing literature in English since the 1940s), I also begin to think that maybe, you know, old Dave was a bit of a genius. I plan to read Sons and Lovers in the upcoming months, and we'll see after that.

I'm not a genius, but when I look at passages like this, from my work-in-progress, I think I see a bit of Lawrence's lamplight brightening the way:

Mrs Pullman came bustling through the French doors into the garden. She paused just outside, dazed by the bright sun. Mr Pullman appeared behind her a moment later. He put a hand on his wife’s arm. She batted it away and took a step into the garden. Her cheeks and forehead were bright red.

"Just shut up," she said. "You’re talking nonsense."

George said something but none of the guests in the garden could make out what it was. He disappeared into the dining room. Mrs Pullman turned and shrieked at him, something shrill and violent and her heavy frame quaked with emotion. She shook a fist.

I have, of course, no idea what this passage will look like once I've revised the novel a few times. It might not even make it into the final MS. But I'm sure that if I looked at other pages at random, I'd see more of Lawrence's influence.

One subtext of this post is the idea that "finding one's own voice" is not only highly over-rated, but also pointless in my opinion. Voice is part of narrative, not a fixed property of the writer. Voice is part of the telling, not of the teller.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Despite the Protagonist Being a Detective

For about a month now--maybe longer--I've been writing a new novel. This one has the working title The Last Guest and is an exploration of long-term coupling in the form of a detective story. Yeah, that's right. So far I'm about 7,000 words into the book. According to the one-page outline I whacked out a few weeks ago, I'm still in Chapter One. Huh. Actually, I've been considering the idea of not having any chapter breaks at all, just moving on from scene to scene for the length of the narrative. Readers might hate that, but it worked for Beckett, right?

I also note that so far, 7,000+ words into the novel, there is no "story question" yet. There's no "will X do Y and stop Z?" or whatever. I think the narrative bubbles along nicely anyway, and though I will eventually have to produce a dead body (it is a murder mystery after all), I don't necessarily feel a lot of pressure to do that right away. Again, readers might hate that, but I'm not writing this for the mystery-reading crowd. This is a book in the form of a detective story, but it's not really a detective story. Despite the protagonist being a detective and all.

There is the urge to make a lot of Jasper Ffordian puns, like having the pistol in the first act be manufactured by the Chekhov Arms Company and to have the same pistol studiously not fired by the third act and such other larky things, but I am manfully resisting. For now, anyway.