Narrative Development and Surprise

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The last two stories in the 100 Days project, currently at number 88, had interesting development. The New Geometry and The Voice happened in different ways.

The New Geometry was a late story and somewhat of a struggle. I woke up Sunday morning after a late reading at New London’s Hygienic at about 8:30 or 9, which is late for me. The dog was somewhat troubled, slashing his tail at the bottom of the stairs, and the cats were already chasing after each other. The New Geometry, which began with “The Scratch” as its title, started with an impulse image just to get things going. A man finds a scratch on his car. At first I thought the shape of the scratch would be an unnamed geometric shape (so in the back of my head I had an echo of geometry as a theme or a persistent image) and that this shape would be repeated on various other cars or places.

When I hit on the father, a suggestion came from the mother in the story, that the father would somehow return, hence the conflict and the new title. When this occurred to me, it called for fairly extensive revision, and the last item was the building facade with the chess board.

The Voice was influenced by Bolaño’s character Amalfitano, who (where I am in the novel at the moment) is hearing voices. Last night when I went to bed, I figured I’d write a story about a man hearing a voice, too. I knew how it would start but didn’t know what would happen after the line: “The man heard a voice that told him sensible things.” The next question is obvious: what are the sensible things? Next idea: if a man hears a voice telling him to do sensible things, this wouldn’t necessarily be pleasant. In the end, it seems to me that after killing the voice, the man is left in a pretty odd state, which may be entirely normal, but, then again, maybe not.

Anyway, Bolaño’s 2666 is definitely getting under my skin. Amalfitano’s tale is an extended lesson in uncomfortable landscapes, like being suspended over sharp rocks with just a few and maybe frayed strings holding you up.


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