Discover more from The Next Novel
Hey! If you will be in Philadelphia around AWP, I will be reading with a boatload (barload?) of amazing writers at Strangelove’s on Friday, March 25th. I would LOVE to see you there.
Picking up a thread from last week: “Something about how a novel with a first-person narrator can feel like the best nonfiction. Something about how my narrator, specifically, would choose to structure her story.”
Going back to what I already knew about this project over a year ago — what I learned from Kogonada: “Get the beats down. Get the mood. Decide what you will shoot and what you won’t — or, in my case, what will be on the page and what will not.”
My narrator is a documentary filmmaker with a passion for architecture. She has a strong point of view, especially about form and the order of a story. She is skilled at the art of editing. I struggled with the voice of this novel for so long, but it is clear to me now how crucial these facts are to getting it right.
On the one hand, it’s exciting — tell me you wouldn’t want to be told a story about a con artist in the hands of that narrator — but some days, the task of capturing her voice is daunting.
One way I’m finding in: by describing an object from the house museum as if I am looking at a film still. By giving both the visual texture of the shot and the historical background of the object. By letting the object lead into the scene or the memory. By allowing the object to resurface later in the scene, now with the context of story.
As a prompt for these short pieces of writing — what I am calling “object openings” — and because it’s fun and it makes me happy, I have been browsing early-to-mid-20th-century design objects online. I mean collections of images like this one from MoMA’s 2016 exhibit “How Should We Live? Propositions for the Modern Interior.” I have been tunneling down deep rabbit holes on the history of objects like these Kubus stacking storage containers designed by Wilhelm Wagenfeld.
Will any of this make it into the book? Yes and no and yes. We do what the project requires.