Since Monday, my writing has been sparse…well, honestly, non-nexistent.
But! This does not mean I have not been enriching my writing skills. A writer who does not read is like an athlete who does not eat. And thus, I read.
Yesterday, I finished “The Stages” by Thom Satterlee. When I reached the book’s conclusion I was at first satisfied. But as I ruminated, I found my satisfaction ebbing. I began to ask questions. “Wait, why did the killer kill? Wait, did he actually kill Mette, or did she kill Mette? Hold on, I really wanted to get to know Susannah a little bit more.” But the book was over, and I wasn’t going to get my answers. I could construct some theory around what I already knew, but nothing was in “plain english.”
“So,” I asked myself, “why did the author choose this route? Why is there so much I want to know after finishing the novel?”
The answer came to me today as I was driving home from Cafe Moro today. Character! The novel is character driven. That is the answer, Romeo, you star-crossed bastard! The story is Daniel Peters (and, arguably, Søren Kierkegaard). The story encompassed all of Daniel Peters and how he related to the world around him. Yes, his world was flipped over and shaken like a Danish snow-globe, but that only served to change him. The story was about how Daniel Peters changed through the events of the book. It wasn’t about how the plot fit Daniel Peters into the story. Without the fullness of Daniel Peters as a character I would have seen nothing but a bag of bones slapped between sections of the plot. As it is, “The Stages” is one of the most complete and satisfying books I’ve read in a long while.
If Daniel Peters doesn’t need every little question answered, I don’t need to have every question answered.
The centrality of Daniel Peter’s life to “The Stages” poked me in my writer’s eyes. Nyuk nyuk nyuk! Although I’ve come close to finishing the first draft of my novel, I never once stopped to ask my self, “Ben, could you write a whole book based solely on your main character, Jack?” Could I take Jack out of the wacky alternate universe I’ve created, away from the beings from another universe (Sagarites), away from The Prophet (an evil A.I. bent on making itself god), away from every creepy crawly thing to which he reacts, and still write a good satisfying story about his life? Damn it, I can’t deny it. I’ve sacrificed my character on the altar of plot. Ye gods! What a failure I am!