I’m in a literary bind of my own making. I decided to write a novel — a literary novel not a humorous one as you might expect from me. When you read a literary novel, you have to check the dictionary at least once a page and invent theories about what the author really means because he certainly is not going to tell you.
I have written 150,000 words so far, about a novel’s worth. I’d be happy to stop except the main protagonist, the character whose adventure inspired this novel, has only just now entered the story as a tiny fetus in his mother’s womb. Not exactly what you’d call a developed character. Yes, the mother stole the story from her own son! I suspect this is not the first time that’s happened, in fiction or in life.
Several times, characters that I breathed life into have hijacked my intended plot and run off in another direction. I had to lock one character in the closet for three chapters just to calm her down and get back control of the story.
My novel has developed a life of its own. Every chapter opens a new aspect of the plot that needs several more chapters to develop or close off. The two fingers that do most of my typing are complaining of neuro-muscular ailments with official sounding Latin names — the kind that are printed in italics so you know they’re AMA approved.
Something had to be done, and so I invited my novel, tentatively titled “Perfect Parts,” to sit down with me and have a heart-to-heart about our future together.
John Philipp: I’d like a few minutes of your time, if I may.
“Perfect Parts”: Sure, I’m not going anywhere.
JP: That’s what I want to talk with you about. You aren’t going anywhere. Aren’t you tired of carrying around unresolved conflicts? Isn’t it about time for, say, a denouement?
PP: No, I’m cool.
JP: You are very cool. So cool, in fact, I’m feeling quite selfish not sharing you with the world.
PP: I’m fine. I’m growing and flexing my literary muscles. Why would I want to submit to a punishing edit, get red ink all over my pristine white pages and get strapped, squeezed and glued into a restrictive binding?
JP: For one thing, I have other stories I want to write.
PP: Other stories? Well just look at you, Mr. dilettante, sneaking around with other literati, pen in hand. That’s why you want this to end.
JP: It’s nothing personal. We have a nice little family here. But there comes a time when every parent must kick the kids out of the nest.
PP: Ooh, that’s cold.
JCP: It’s not that I don’t love you. I want to give you a chance to spread your wings and fly. I feel I’m tying you down with endless plotlines.
PP: Truthfully, some of that is my fault. I’d rather remain in the draft stage. The womb is comfortable. I have everything I need: heroes, villains, conflict, suspense and a few characters with lovable quirks surround me. And I have a talking teddy bear named Monsieur Flaubert that’s very cute and very wise. I love that bear.
JP: I didn’t want it to come to this. Unless you can help me wrap this up I’ll need to institute an austerity program.
PP: Austerity, what’s that? You haven’t typed that word before.
JP: It would mean reducing your resources. Less computer time, limited dictionary access and I’m afraid the thesaurus would have to stay on the shelf.
PP: Roget won’t like that one bit.
JP: What do you say, finish in a non-cliché, memorable ending or subsist in a dungeon of one and two-syllable words?
PP: What if no one wants me? Word is that there’s a lot of that going on.
JP: Then I’ll publish you as an e-book. Very high-tech. Very au courant.
PP: I changed my mind. I’m ready to wrap up. But no more e-book talk. OK?
This Week's Ponder: If a book about failures doesn't sell, is it a success?