09 December 2015

Stoking the imagination

As I near completion of my first novel, I am searching for the topic for my next one. For the next one, I have decided, is going to take every ounce of my effort to craft the fine literary novel.  The book that Joseph Conrad or Hemingway would have written.  I want it to be short, poignant and beautifully written. But what should I write about?

Hemingway wrote about  man's struggle against the creatures in the sea.  He wrote about man's struggles against the bulls. His writing is clean. Staccato. Full of progressive images and devoid of descriptions of emotion. Instead he surrounds the reader in the scenes that created the emotion much like a movie.

Conrad wrote about the sea and man's struggle with his own foibles against it.  He wrote about spies and evil, follies and darkness. His characters are moral dilemmas. The stories are stark, but the emotions he elicits are powerfully dark. Evil lurks, waiting for the unsuspecting. The story is often told through the eyes of an observer who gets sucked into the story.

What makes a powerful story? The ideas I have discarded so far (or maybe pocketed for another time) include:
  • A writer who can't get himself to write goes to all kinds of places where famous creative people have stayed or lived to find inspiration as though it could be absorbed through osmosis. Working title: The land of inspiration.
  • A woman writes a novel that she claims is completely made up but it's really her autobiography, and everyone but she can see that it is. Working title: Plausible deniability. 
I have crossed oceans on a small boat. I have skied some of the best mountains in the world. I have walked into the jungle. I have explored islands where civilizations have wandered over time and left.  I have lived in Philadelphia in the '60s, the Bronx and Manhattan in the '70s, New Jersey in the '90s and 2000s, Ireland in the post-Celtic Tiger phase. I have been a scientist and I survived a career in advertising in NY. I can come up with a better story.

It will have a component of being at sea. It may have a component of leaving things behind in search of home. It may touch upon the pain and lost feeling of displacement. It may provide the hope of belonging. We shall see. It's like a loaf of bread.  It needs to rise. Then it needs proving. We are on our way.

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