Larger than Life embarks

I can say that I’ve embarked on the writing of Larger than Life in earnest now. I had written a couple of hundred words last week as a way to dip my toe in the water, but now the voyage has truly begun.

The metaphor is apt since the chapter I’ve begun with is about a float trip a group of people take on a river near my home. If you’re not familiar with my home state of Missouri, most canoe trips there are taken on Ozark streams in the lower half of the state. These spring-fed streams run clear and swift, with fast-moving riffles separated by placid pools. The trip my characters are taking, however, is on the Kaw, a sluggish, sandbar-ridden river in nearby Kansas, and the fact that my protagonist’s canoe gets bogged down on hidden sandbars speaks to his state of life as the story begins.

My word count on the story has swollen from 200 words to more than 900 words in only a week. My blistering pace is awesome! As I noted in a recent post, after reviewing my notes for this novel, I identified several themes that will govern it. (The protagonist being bogged down in his life is one of them.) As a result, just about every word I write (or more correctly at this point, rewrite since I had done a slapdash draft of this chapter several months ago) is influenced by supporting these themes. I ask myself if I’ve chosen the correct word or the best phrasing or a suitable metaphor to keep each sentence within these themes. It’s much too early in the writing for me to get bogged down with this level of the process, but I’m also enthused by having these themes in hand in advance. (For The Sleep of Reason, I was discovering such controlling ideas late in the writing.)

I’m not intending to follow a conventional narrative with this novel, though I’m not going to get overly experimental with it either. At least one chapter, and many passages throughout, will be about a different protagonist, though the bulk of the story will be about the true protagonist. I have a reason for this, of course, but the reason pretty much prevents me from writing any of the different-protagonist sections until the other sections are complete in first draft. Those different-protagonist sections are going to be fun to write, altogether different in tone from the rest of the novel, but beneath them will be the seriousness of the whole novel, which, I think I have mentioned, turns out to be a love story. It will all end up with a blending of the two styles in what I think will be a satisfying synthesis and a hopeful conclusion.

I had some of the elements of The Sleep of Reason knocking about in my head for a decade by the time I began pulling the novel together. Even so, it took me two years to write it (though that included completely rewriting it, changing the narrative from first to third person). I’m hoping that Larger than Life won’t take as long even though its elements are much younger. But a story demands what a story demands.

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