Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Wrestling with an angel
No, I’m not trying out titles for the latest WWF-romance (Shut up you, if Amish-romances are all the rage, you can too have WWF romances as a sub-genre) and I’m only referring to Jacob’s fight with an angel in an allegorical sort of way.
What I’m talking about here is trying to “close” a novel. Oh, I know Dave and I have both talked about the point when everything magically comes together and you just coast to the end. You hit this point where you’re in a special frame of mind and a particular “state of grace” and you just seem to coast through the hard stuff. I’ve heard of painters and musicians describing this state, too. It’s like your subconscious has been doing all the hard work, and suddenly it all meets and is perfect.
Only sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. Sometimes – and this is usually when the novel, for whatever reason is important to you, or significant in some way – you struggle right up to the end. And I end up locked with it, in single combat, feeling like either I finish it or it will finish me.
And when this happens – Gentleman Takes A Chance; Heart and Soul; Darkship Thieves – I am always terrified I’m doing something mortally wrong. So, in addition to the novel itself, I’m wrestling with my fears and my lack of understanding of my own writing.
I am starting to believe that this effect, which seems to grow strong with each of my last five novels is the result of my refusal to compromise.
You know what I mean. To bring the novel to the paper, you compromise a little. You give here, you pull there and you say “Yes, yes, a scene with a cast of thousands and a hundred elephants would be nice, but damned if I know how to write it, so I’ll do the guy and his friend and they just TALK about the elephants and the crowds.” I’ve done this for years. Only suddenly, it’s not enough. I want the noise and surge of the crowds – metaphorically speaking – the heat of the day, the smell of unwashed bodies, the plop of the elephants’... Well, you get what I mean.
So – what should I do? Is it worth wrestling with the angel, even if you know in the end a part of you is going to be lost to this book, a part of you injured or captive in the text? Or should I let it go and learn the art of the possible? Do you ever finish books and feel like it flinched off what should be a “drag me kicking and screaming” ending? Or do you feel that the ends should just tie lose ends and sort of let you down easy?
The question, my friends, is do you want the end to come at the climax, like a clap of thunder and a clash of cymbals? Or leisurely and quietly like an apres-l’amour cigarette? Are there endings you prefer for a certain type of book? Why?
Let me know what you think. I’ll be right here, wrestling with an angel.