Wrote just over 1300 words this morning. The story went in a different direction than I expected but that seems to be par for the course with this novel. I’m not sure why it goes off in unexpected directions. It’s not like the character takes over, which seems to happen to a lot of other writers. It’s more like
my subconscious my muse has a clearer idea of what will produce a strong story than my conscious mind has I have.
What interests me with this book is the amount of summary I’m doing in it. It’s not a case of telling instead of showing. It’s the mindset of the character that drives the tendency for glossing over events. She sees her life as a series of dull daily necessities punctuated by the occasional interesting encounter or action. Describing her day to day actions in detail, therefore, wouldn’t work. Since she doesn’t care about the details, I can’t either. She interacts with people because she has to, not because she wants to, so encounters and conversations get blurred together into a single sensation instead of drawn out episodes. She’s a very introverted person, and so much of the story happens inside her head.
This of course makes writing the novel a bit of a challenge. How much is too much summary and when do I spend too much time inside her head and not enough time with those around her? I think I’m achieving a good balance, but I’ll know for sure once I have the whole thing written and my first readers get their hands on it. If they don’t fall out of the story, I will have achieved a good balance. If they continually drop the thread of the novel, then something isn’t working and I’ll know I need to make some changes.
And just because I’m feeling generous today, here’s a brief sample of what I mean by Emily’s way of interacting with the world…
The next morning, she didn’t go see Ted, nor over the next few days. If the Highest Masters could monitor her, better to be a model citizen without any interest in anything outside the town. Instead, she helped with more production loading, went to Temple every day and tried to have fun doing what every other teenager in town did, hanging out in the bathhouse or the main square. Although she did her best to care about the lives of others her age, she found herself spending most of her time wishing that she was back in her garden restoring it to its former glory, or in the Admission Center discussing her experiments with Ted. But no, to avoid suspicion she needed to act like a normal teen, no matter how boring it was.
Her change in behavior had the added bonus of thawing the Mayor’s attitude toward her. Even though the air within the Temple made her sick, Emily did her best to put up with it, and with the Mayor’s devotion. Few people Emily’s age went to Temple weekly, let alone every day, so the Mayor latched onto Emily like a lung infection in the rainy season. No matter what Emily did from now on, she doubted she would ever be able to get rid of the woman.
After a week of being barely able to breathe, Emily decided it was time to change things in the Temple. She took with her a large bouquet of roses, blue ropes of small flowers drooping off long vines that reminded Emily of the stream behind her house, or of breezes made solid. The vase she used was tall and thin but even so the roses hung down below the base of the vase, enhancing the sense of flow. She arrived at the Temple before anyone else and took the vase up to the front of the building where the statue of the First Master looked down upon everyone. Placing the vase on an empty ledge behind the statue, she draped the roses on either side of him, making sure that none of them actually touched him. She didn’t want to risk offending the Mayor somehow, but she really needed to do something to clear the air, or she would get lung rot and then be unable to help anyone. She was surprised that none of the regular devotees had come down with anything nasty up until now.
When the Mayor arrived, Emily was already seated in her pew, breathing deeply and silently encouraging the roses to clear the dampness from the air. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Mayor stop in her tracks and put her hands on her hips in a gesture that Emily recognized as the beginning of a complaint. But then the woman breathed, then breathed again this time more deeply. Emily looked up to gauge the Mayor’s reaction. A smile had spread across her face and she dropped her hands to her sides.
“Those are lovely, Emily,” she said inhaling the soft aroma of the delicate blossoms. “It’s nice to see you sharing the results of all that work you’ve put in. I must say that it adds a certain level of dignity to the First Master, as if even the roses strive to touch him and receive his blessing. Look at the way they mimic the postures of the petitioners.”
Emily hadn’t noticed the unconscious echo that she’d created and she squashed a desire to run up to the altar and rip the roses down. Her roses didn’t worship the First Master any more than she did. Instead, she twisted the image in her head, seeing the First Master a block between her roses and the people who needed them, the people who needed her. She smiled back at the Mayor but said nothing. Let the woman believe Emily a devote follower. It cost her nothing and who knew what it could gain her in the future?