Wednesday, November 21, 2012

You take me in too dolorous a sense

On Monday, or whenever it was that I last posted, I wrote some vague stuff about action equalling character and how I was sort of making a list of* the significant actions taken by characters in the first half of my work-in-progress so that I could revisit those actions late in the narrative, this time acted out by different characters, in different times and places, to different effect. What I'm maybe getting at by this shilly-shallying with plot is (aside from a late attempt to create a structure for the narrative) to experiment with the idea that meaning in fiction is not necessarily tied strongly to plot. Or, rather, that actions themselves are not character and that Aristotle only gets it half right.

Meaning, therefore, is what was missing from Monday's post. I am playing around with meaning in my novel-in-progress. For example, in the first chapter of the book I (the narrator, that is) tell the reader about the oldest memory I believe I possess: wandering through a dark wood and coming across a brightly-lit clearing. Over the course of the novel, I give versions of this memory to several other characters, and the hope is that the reader will gain some insight into each of those characters, but that the insights will differ for each character. It is also hoped that the reader will think that perhaps certain experiences are common.

I should also come clean and admit right off that the main reason I'm playing with repetitive imagery like this is for my own amusement. It's fun, and it's a nifty intellectual challenge to see if I can reuse these actions in a way that yields satisfactory artistic results. Is it cool? Then it's a good idea.

Mighty Reader pointed out to me, when I told her that I was sort of stalled at the edge of the precipice which is the Third Act of this book, that with each book I write I hesitate at this point while seeking some difficult novelistic challenge to solve in order to keep the narrative interesting to me as a writer. Simply writing out the end of the plot is boring and I have little enthusiasm for that. So certainly this repetitive action piece is probably just to keep me from getting bored with the novel, and I'll go ahead and admit that when my readers come upon Chapter 11's philosophical argument between Pascal and Wittgenstein, their suspicion that it's only in the book because the author thought it would be a fun challenge to write will be well-founded. Also, I promise the reader such an argument in about Chapter 3. Where'd I steal this structure from? Oh, Tristram Shandy. Of course.

I assure my reader that the Pascal v Wittgenstein debate serves to further develop two of the book's major characters and the arguments being batted about will serve as stand-ins for the conflict between these two characters. Again, it looks hard to write but oh such fun when I get it all right. Sometimes I ask myself why I bother writing novels, and then I remember that it's because I get to do stuff like this.

*In truth, "casting an eye over" would be more accurate.


  1. Ah, I look forward the argument between Pascal and Wittgenstein.

    I agree it's necessary to challenge oneself on each novel.

  2. Both Blaise and Ludwig come down, in the end, to "because I said so" arguments. So it'll be fun!

    Your NaNo series is really good, btw.


  3. I am so glad that I have found this blog. After reading this post and the previous one I’m now tempted to read at least one of your novels. I like the way you describe your creating process (if I have understood correctly, it’s about writing down some fragments and then putting them into certain structures?) as well as the fact that you pay so much attention to the structure, the meaning and references to other pieces of literature. I can already imagine reading it through intermedial/intertextual or semiotic (because of the changes of the meaning depending on the context) glasses. It would also be fun to find some patterns in terms of “repetitive imagery”.

    Speaking of patterns, I have become obsessed with them recently, so take a look at my new blog, if interested :)

  4. PS, thanks for commenting (and reading). The way I put together novels changes with each one, or at least it feels that way. The one I'm writing now is finding its structure as I go along; I'm less concerned with overall structure in this one than I am with a feeling of forward motion within the narrative, though. And, of course, with the interconnectedness of the images. I'll be as interested as the next reader to see what patterns have formed in the writing.

    Looking for patterns and repetition in literature is always fun and often revealing of things the author himself wasn't aware of.