So, I’m writing a novel…Part I

Somehow I’ve managed to be surrounded by people who write.  I’d like to trace some thoughtful evolution or attribute my position to some fluke of random chance.  Rather, I lean towards Chaos Theory, that butterfly flying in China that I’ve mentioned in a previous post.  When I withdrew one of my sons from school to be taught at home, this action created connections with other homeschoolers, followed by shared needs and experiences, and, finally, to the declaration, “You should put that in your novel!”  Life decisions for the well-being of my son have brought me to my keyboard.

The process of creating fiction is, on the whole, foreign to me.  I’ve published my statistical analyses of health data and explained variance and significance of findings.  My work has been in the concrete, the measurable, the truth.  Even reviewing others’ writing is grounded in reality:  this is how it made me feel, what I connected to it, what confused me.

Throughout this process – I’m approaching my second submission to a writing group – it has become clear that it is impossible to untangle my personal experiences with my writing.  With particular emphasis on the lows, the path that is my life has seeped into my characters and their story lines even as I attempted to conjure words that were completely new.

With certainty, I have developed a curiosity on the genesis of others’ writing.  While some clearly draw from the gestalt of their hometown or their family’s history, others could be repackaging some dark, personal truths.  I look at one of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahniuk, with suspicion.  Perhaps I don’t want to meet him now?  I wonder, after reading my novel, would my reader want to meet me?

Goodreads: I’m Just Not That Into You

At first glance, Goodreads seemed like a great guy for a long-term relationship.  He was always there for me.  He was always saying, “You’re so pretty,” and “You’re so smart.”  Mom and friends swooned.  What more could I want from the man who said, “You’ll always be my five-star.”  Sure, his drunk friends would occasionally troll and sneer, “She’s not all that,” but he was quick to roll eyes and clamor to my defense.  After a while, it became a line.  It became clear I wasn’t the only five-star in his life.  It is time to shelve this relationship and start reading from a new relationship book.

The truth is, I wanted a man who took a stand.  A Highlander, there can be only one, stand.  I wanted a man who would say, “You are my one and only five-star.”  His mom could be a four-star gal, and all of his ex-girlfriends could be at most two-stars.  His five-star must be relegated to the best, the brightest, the Olympic-gold-world-record-holder.  For my man, he could only give out one five- star review.  I was done, done with the, “All women are five-stars,” kind of guy.  It might be good for dating to dole out five-star reviews to every participant, but it ain’t good for marriage.  I’m talking long term, someone I can grow old with. 

So, Goodreads, I’m just not that into you.  Your cover is great, and your lines are smooth as silk, but you lack character.  Only I don’t have a way of telling you that.  I’d give you five stars for your calculated plot and impeccable selection of setting for our dates, but your character development is one-star.  If I add these measures and divide by three (11/3), you average a 3.6 – a number still not low enough to express how I feel about you.  Here you look just slightly above average.  Any future girlfriend has to sift through a lot of text to put this number in perspective.  I want her to know what a scumbag you are, how you lured me with your appearance, your sweet talk, how you’re no better than Alec d’Urberville. You’re just another Dimmesdale, or Willoughby or Heathcliff.

I’ve moved on.  I’ve got a new rating system.  One that allows me to say, “That Alex Shakar, he has a great story line, but he keeps a really cluttered house”  or, “Thanks, Chuck Palahniuk, for ruining the mega-store bathroom setting for me.”  I’ve got more than one set of star ratings, because my five-star man has to be five stars on looks, substance AND direction.    My five-star man is one of a kind.