Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Spark of Life

So I've been rewriting Father Dowd's diary entries for Cocke & Bull and while I have come up with The Idea that will make them all work properly within the context of the book, there is still more labor ahead of me.

This afternoon I tried to rewrite the first of the entries. I know what the short scene is about and it became clear what the actual meaning of the entry is supposed to be, but the 500 or so words I wrote all seemed to lie flat on the page, pretty enough but dead. The spark of life was missing from them. The anima of John Dowd isn't there. It was, in other words, a bit dull.

Now, I don't want these eight short journal excerpts to be more interesting or exciting than the story of which they are but a small part, but at the same time I don't want the reader's eyes to glaze over whenever these bits come up in the narrative. So the prose has to pop somehow. I have what I think is a pretty good idea about how to give Father Dowd (who--aside from one scene--appears only via these diary entries) the spark of life. My idea [oy, spoiler alert] is to have Dowd confess in these bits to things that will surprise and discomfit and scandalize the reader. I don't have them all worked out; I just have the general idea but they'll reveal the human side of the good Father and hopefully will be funny in a Samuel Beckett manner. We'll see.


  1. Brilliant idea.

    It's similar to what I did in my murder mystery which I'm about to start querying. The victim is never seen/heard from in the book other than mentions by his mother and the detectives investigating the crime. Only bare tidbits about him are mentioned . . . until the detectives read various blog posts the victim wrote. Through the blog posts, the victim (i.e., the dead body) comes - hopefully - to life.

    So, I think your idea is brilliant because the reader, through the diary entries, will get to know Father Dowd.


  2. Great minds think alike!

    The only scene in which Father Dowd appears is his death scene, early on in the novel. I've now rewritten the first two of his diary entries, and I think I'm on the right track at last. He also has, finally, a distinct voice all his own.

  3. It's tough to bring a fully formed personality in with entries like that. I've had to do it with letters I'm writing in my latest WIP.

  4. Anne, it's kind of scary, actually, but I'm just plowing ahead and writing as bravely as I can. It's very interesting to me and what I've come up with so far seems entertaining.

    I may take you up on your offer to read the ms when it's done. I'll be in touch.