Friday, April 28, 2017

Picking and Choosing

Scenes come to me when they will. The term "pantser" doesn't appeal to me, but I am not an outlining writer, and the idea of composing a novel in order confounds me. I follow the research first, and the inspiration second. Usually because the latter doesn't precede the former, and I have a harder time capturing it.

Not long ago, I was working on that quiet moment, knowing what has got to come after it. The scene stands alone (though I do still need to get rid of that research-y bit about natron), but really there's no novel if anything does that. And so I must proceed.


I don't want to write the pogrom. And that is what follows, there.

Writing one of the first riotous, violent religious purges in the storied history of Christendom all but makes me long for a battle scene. And I hate writing battle scenes.

But even to contemplate this is so much worse. The only redemption before me is that I will not write from within the perspective of the murderers, the looters, the rapists, the cruel. But it is little consolation; knowing one is only surrounded by looting, rape, and killing doesn't take away the looting, rape, and killing.

So, today, I got back to the murder scene.

It's strange how preferable this is to writing the pogrom. It is smaller in scale, of course, and so I have more control, more ability to move through the mechanics of each moment - realization, sensation, progression.

It also takes place with a character who has come to a philosophical place of relinquishment. She's lost enough to eschew the rest, and life appears all but pointless by this moment. Losing everyone else was hard; losing herself, even painfully, may be a relief.

I've watched this relinquishment, of course. I've been witness to plaintive, righteous begging for death. It's hard, but great Christ do I understand it.

And so the crux of this murder is that it becomes manumission; the killers will free this woman, and she will accept escape at last, if only when she sees there is no other choice.

Thematically, of course, this links to my post from yesterday. So I had to go to this scene. (That is my excuse, and I'm sticking with it.) I had to find the sensations of the ground under her toes, the air down her throat, the sweat of her skin.

It's got me thinking of another death scene too. A character I can scarcely bear to see die, but who eventually must. A person can only live so long, and in the sixth century CE, even less than we tend to expect now.

When I emailed the manuscript to myself last night, as I do periodically as a kind of backup - the chronicle of my "versioning" (and progress) - I put a subject line on the email: "What good is this life edition" ...

There is an ancient religious philosophy - not only in Western schools of faith, but certainly predominant in Europe for centuries - that this life is a vale of tears, and the only existence worth contemplating is the eternal destination of the soul.

Think of Heaven. For kings and peasants alike, this was the mindset encouraged by so many aspects of so many ways of life.

Even as kings needs must strategize every single day.

Even as peasants must tend and bring in the harvest, the flock, the catch. Must learn how best this is done. Must feed the body, for letting it die - no matter how useless this life may be - was still a sin.

All these contradictions.

I'd rather write death than massacre.

Writing. Like everything else, it comes down to choices.

So. How's YOUR writing going?

No comments: