Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Antosha in Prague, excerpt no. 3

From the work in progress.
A burst of laughter, high and clear as the song of a nightingale, tumbled in through the window. Chekhonte pushed open the sash and leaned out, pen in hand, to find the source. Directly below him on the pavement stood a young woman in a white sunbonnet, holding with each of her hands the hand of a little girl. She laughed again, a strong laugh without a hint of self-consciousness, and then she called out to someone Chekhonte could not see. She spoke English, too rapidly for him to understand a word. The little girls were blond, with curls and pink bows and sailor dresses and Chekhonte assumed they were Americans. The maitre d’hôtel had mentioned that there were several American families staying there for the season. The young woman laughed and Chekhonte felt a deep aching loneliness throb behind his heart and for a full two minutes he was in love with the American woman and he had a powerful urge to lay aside his writing and fling himself down four flights of stairs and into the street where he would declare his passionate devotion to her in broken English.
I'm currently working on the central story to this collection, a novella-length thing called "Antosha in Prague" (surprise). I've somehow convinced myself that the best formal structure for this particular story is a series of letters written by the Antosha character to a variety of people. There will be something like fifty letters, I think. I've never done this particular trick, so the high degree of difficulty is quite pleasing. The story will end with a contrasting section, the diary of a young Czech law student. It will all be really cool or really dumb; that's the only way to fly, kids. The epistolary format is exhausting, by the way. I don't recommend it to anyone. It is, however, an excellent framework for nested stories. Spoilers, sorry.

5 comments:

  1. Looks promising, sounds like a juggling act, isn't too long for the epistolary format--why not? Enjoy...

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    1. I've managed to create enough rules for the correspondence that the writing's becoming something like a game, which is a huge relief. The Antosha character tells different things in different ways, depending on who he's writing to. There are still some formal challenges to solve, but I like that part of the process.

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    2. Sounds like fun, and a writer's kind of fun is . . . good!

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  2. I have always wanted to write something based entirely on letters. I tried it once and it failed spectacularly. I know you have more talent to pull it off than I, however, so even if you fear it will be really dumb, keep going. One of my favorite stories in this format is Lady Susan by Jane Austen. It's quite spicy and highly unknown and undervalued.

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    1. The hard thing is to keep a plot moving in letters, to make sure there's a reason someone would be writing all of this action into a letter he'd mail to someone. Luckily, the person writing the letters is a famous teller of stories. And all of the letters are written by the main character; you only get one side of the correspondence, like The Screwtape Letters but with multiple addressees. So I'm cheating.

      I don't know that Austen. I'll bet we have it on the shelf, though. After this, I will abandon the epistolary novel. It's a lot of damned work. I already feel like I'm a prisoner of the form.

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