ripples

I fear it’s going to be a long time before I finish my Fathers and Sons cycle of stories. I have twenty of them so far, though only three are in what I consider “finished” form. They are the stories of the relationships of three generations of men and boys over about thirty years, and as I live in their world I sometimes see gaps in the narrative and realize I must develop more stories to fill those voids. So I may have more stories yet to write. Regardless, I’m glad that I’m still on fire about them; it’s going to be a long journey. Increasingly, too, they feel like actual people, that I’ve been given the privilege of peeking into their lives and documenting it all. That makes the effort more manageable.

One of those “fill the gap” stories recently barged into my head, and I’ve been struggling to see how it should be developed. I generally knew what I was trying to achieve, but I didn’t clearly understand the character’s motivation at that point in his life. I was amassing notes for the story, little revelations, bits of dialog, that sort of thing. But I didn’t have the glue to hold it all together.

Yet I had a breakthrough the other day. (It was late in the afternoon. I was sitting at my desk at the office, supposedly working for the man, when the revelation came to me. I didn’t even have the caffeine boost from my morning tea.) I understood the motivation of the character. (He’s disappointed with the dad he got in life — the little jerk — but I wasn’t clear on exactly why.)

So now I have the framework on which to hang all of my thoughts for this story, which has the tentative title of “Unmet Expectations” by the way. I still have a long way to go before I’ll be ready to write it, but at least I can focus better and sift through all of the ideas that come to me.

The consequence of this, in a multi-generational collection of stories, is that each of these revelations has ripples that wash through the years and the lives of these three (and those in their lives). The reason the son is disappointed with his dad has echoes in other stories. It has beginnings in various places and in various ways. It has consequences. All of this enriches the other tales, of course, but it means that I can’t finish them because they’re still being informed.

I’ve thought that I should try to write the stories chronologically and that this might help me “control” these revelations or cause them to present themselves in a more orderly, more manageable way, but part of me bristles at that. One thing I’ve learned about the creative part of me is that it is not under my control. These realizations come to me unbidden (often when I’m out running and far from the laptop), and I can’t really “force” them to arrive. I just have to muse and ponder and keep making notes. And write, which I need to get back to doing right now.

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One Comment on “ripples”

  1. Teri Says:

    Story cycle, not told chronologically, with ripple effects …. have you read Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE? It might be fun to see how she does it??


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