Today, I put THE BOOK (or what I’ve done so far) into the mail and sent it off to my editor: this will be her very first look at it, and I’m so excited! Of course, as soon as I got it ready to push off to her, I realized I had lots of things in the wrong order….I fear that this kind of choice is only going to get harder and harder as I get further and further into the story. And isn’t that crazy?
When we read books, or when I teach literature, most often we aren’t really concerned with the order–we assume the story is in the shape that it should be told. But the truth is that there are so many ways a well-told story could be told….and this is fascinating to me. Jumps through time, flashbacks, the ‘now,’ etc…how does one decide which scene should come first?
Tomorrow, we start Beowulf in English 12. Now I know that it’s an oral tale, originally, but can you imagine if the epic poem did NOT start out with Grendel’s attacks on Herot? (Spoiler alert.) What if it started with Beowulf killing his mother and then moving backward in time? Or how about The Catcher in the Rye…I mean, we’re actually given a frame to work with when we begin the book, and if it weren’t there, well, what would it be like, I wonder. What if the book started with Holden showing up in Phoebe’s bedroom? Weird, right? (Btw, for some reason, I was reminded of the movie “Big” starring Tom Hanks just now. “Big” and Catcher. Huh. Definite similarities I never realized until now.) And of course, what about The Alchemist? If Santiago had not made his journey chronologically, then how would we get to the pyramids to (spoiler alert…nah, I just can’t do it)…well, you know.
I guess that as I write this, I’m convincing myself to tell my story chronologically, but only because it’s the norm. And it’s safe. We all understand time–it’s how we live. We do not teleport or time travel, even though we wish sometimes, we dream sometimes, we hallucinate sometimes, that we do. No. Not possible.
I guess that while I plod along in the writing of THE BOOK, I’ll look to the omens (The Alchemist) to help me make those decisions. And tonight, Camilla the Kitty says, “It’s time to quit, Mom.”
Until next time, then.