Thursday, July 13, 2023

Defending My Novel

While I haven't actually been asked to do this, I'm constantly trying to defend my novel, at least to myself.  Why is it worth writing?  Why is it worth reading?  Is this worth doing?

In a college, you have all these different communities; there are the students, the faculty, the administration, the staff, the alumni, and the larger community of the city and the state that aren't in the college.  In a small school, something that happens to just a few people ends up felt by all of these different communities in different ways.

When I was a freshman, there was a woman who said she was raped by several boys, then she recanted, then she recanted again.  It was a pretty devastating thing, and I don't think anybody on any side was ever satisfied with the outcome.  My idea was to take that incident, but just that incident, change all the people involved in it, change the victim, change the accused, change the motivations, change the Greek organizations, change how and when it happened, but keep this idea of how having this really big thing hanging in the background is reflected differently in all of the communities, and maybe keep the time of year when it happened.  

In a story like this, there are a lot of social issues involved.  Issues of gender and class and justice, I'm even going to bring issues of race into it that weren't part of the actual events, but I don't want it to be a book about issues; I want it to be a book about people, about characters, not even the people involved in the main action, but all the people who try to live their lives while this goes on around them.  My two main characters have very different opinions about what happened and how to deal with it, and in the end, they arrive at very different places.  

I want to include ideas about mental health and what motivates people, and what impact actions have on their state of mind and sense of self.  

Although this will be a fictional story about a fictional place and fictional people, if you were ever at Millsaps, you'll recognize a lot of ghosts and memories.  If you were at Millsaps in the '80s, it will feel like a memory, even though it's not.  I tend to think of it that they filmed a movie of my novel and used Millsaps as the location.  

I think it's important that this takes place in the early Eighties because that's when traditional college students in the South were the first in their region, and often in their family, who never knew a segregated education system.  While I don't intend to deal with that directly, I do want to keep the notion that this is a new generation and a new chance at something different in our larger culture.  We were the children of the civil rights movement.  That much is very clear to me.  

Behind all that, there are the troubles in Ireland in a school where most of the students have Irish roots.  There's Reagan and Reaganomics and all the social changes that came with the Republican revolution.  We were also the first MTV to go to college.  There ended up not being many after us, so being MTV consumers at its inception ended up making us pretty unique.  

Because more of my training is in Theatre than in literature, I'm using the classical dramatic elements to build my story around. Point of inciting interest,  exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement.  I don't think I'm ready to do stream-of-consciousness or non-linear formats yet.  

I hope that I'll end up with something worth reading.  I hope I'll be able to create characters you are interested in and care about what happens to them, even if you don't agree with their actions.  I'm not out to expose anyone or beat a drum about any of the issues in the story, but to maybe show how these issues play out in a character's life and motivation.  People going off to college think they know everything, but reality soon hits them, and sometimes they find themselves in the middle of a storm.  My story is about people who find themselves in a storm, then find their way back out again.

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