So, I’m writing a novel. I’ve been working on it for some months (sporadically at first, since I had to study for my finals, more intensely in the last month), it’s the first in a tetralogy, about a clever sarcastic college girl who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets catapulted into a series of parallel universes (set in the future, in an alternate past, in an alternate present and so on). Since she has accidentally switched places with the person who was supposed to time-travel, not only her life gets terribly entangled with those of the people she meets, but someone’s after her and her time is running out. The book I’m currently working on is set in a future colony of Earth.
So far, so good, if it wasn’t for a teeny-tiny detail.
There are two different storylines, and I now see (after reaching 30k words, dammit haha) that they shouldn’t go together. I love them both, in fact, I love them too much to “waste” them like this, trying to cramp everything in the same book. They wouldn’t fulfill their potential, I wouldn’t be able to explore all the characters as deep as I’d like to (and as much as they deserve), the story would seem rushed and maybe even confusing for the reader.
To use a metaphor, I’m basically writing “The Great Gatsby” but calling it “Nick Carraway”, giving Nick a great storyline, as great as Gatsby’s, and continuing to follow Nick’s life after Gatsby dies. What a terrible book that would be, wouldn’t it? Ok maybe not terrible because it’s still F.S. Fitzgerald we’re talking about, but it would be confusing and, frankly, pointless. They would steal each other’s scenes, with the effect of diminishing the impact of both their storylines. Nick, although he does have a personal life and an interesting story, is mostly there to observe and narrate the Greatness of Mr. Gatsby. He can’t be the hero of the story, it’s simply not his role.
So, what do I do? I’ve been thinking about this for a while, because the more I wrote, the more I felt something was not right. But I couldn’t grasp what it was that was bugging me so much, until last night.
Last night I watched “The Fault In Our Stars” (tbh I didn’t want to, because I have several close experiences with people sick with cancer and I just can’t take it anymore, but my curiosity
and masochism won), and something hit me in the face like a brick: I got it all wrong. The POV is wrong. It’s not a matter of first person, third person limited, third person omniscient. The problem is that I’m writing two stories at the same time, forcing them to merge and ending up in a tangle of wasted potential from both parts.
And I realized that the reason I’m doing so is that I’m, well, scared. Metaphor!Nick’s storyline is easier for me to write. Funny, entertaining, deep when it has to, adventurous. Metaphor!Gatsby’s is painful. It’s intense and dark and tragic and I’m afraid to draw from that part of my life, from my memories and feelings and nightmares. I’m afraid to slip and fall into the pit of desperation I escaped (as I said in my first post here, I suffered from depression for several years. It wasn’t pretty, but I got out and I intend to stay out of it). I’m afraid to get lost and don’t be able to find the light again.
So I was playing around, using Protagonist!Nick as a shiled, an excuse to tell safely both his story and the story of GreatButSecondaryCharacter!Gatsby, instead of just driving deep into Gatsby’s soul and tell his great story.
To go back to my film night, it would be like telling “The Fault In Our Stars” from the pov of the bling guy. Say what? Exactly. I mean, I’m sure the guy has A LOT to say and if that talented genius of John Green decided to tell his story, I’m sure he would create something just as beautiful and heartbreaking. But not while he’s writing TFIOS. It would be another story, with another title, other characters, other laughs and tears and dreams and love promises.
I realized that to be the writer I want to be, I cannot hide anymore. I gotta have the guts to go deep, eviscerate the story, live and die with and within the characters. I have to dig up the bones, and not leave the soul alone (if you don’t get the reference, it’s a song by MS MR). I could write a meh novel, a decent novel, a nice novel, an entertaining novel, yes, but it’s not enough for me. Nobody has ever written a great novel by playing safe.
I decided to take the risk and completely immerse myself into just one story. The one I need to tell first, the Gatsby one. Nick Carraway will have to wait for the spotlight, it’s not his moment yet. He will shine another time, in another book.
I won’t hold anything back this time. I’ll get my metaphorical sword and my metaphorical Light of Eärendil and I’ll walk straight into the dark forest to fight monsters, the real ones, hoping not to get devoured by a ghoul or swallowed by a swamp.
Sorry, my beloved J.B., I’ll rip you apart and take the pieces I need to create something else, THE story I really need to tell now. It will be like the Frankenstein monster, using your legs to walk, or like a Phoenix, rising from your ashes, and then I’ll go from there. One day I’ll get back to you, I promise.