Almost White

Life has been happening, as usual. This getting to write one or two days a week just isn’t going to cut it. I need to hurry up and become a bestselling author so I have time to write.

Is that a Catch-22 or what?

I have been busy on the creative front. I’ve been working on an essay about plot pacing that was inspired when I saw the premiere episode of Skin, but it hasn’t quite jelled yet. It may become another two-part entry – we’ll see what happens.

I also had something major pop into my head on the commute to work this morning. And this one was almost a White Moment. Not quite – I didn’t go “Wow!” and nearly hit a city bus in my distraction, but I see it as a major concept.

(This is one reason I refuse to have a cell phone – the car is the last refuge from the world I have, and that half-hour in the morning can be very productive.* That’s one reason why I want to build a writer’s shed – one where the only phone line is connected to the computer. You have to be alone and undisturbed to be able to think these things out.)

So this brainstorm isn’t really a notion or an idea. It has more to do with voice. For years I have admired books like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange and Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker for the way they pushed language (and readers) to the outer limits of the form. The Burgess novel, of course, has Nadsat, the Russian based teen slang, which was both an interesting literary device and a wry comment on the times. Hoban’s book takes place generations after a holocaust, ostensibly written by a person who is barely literate enough to express his thoughts and describe events in his world. For decades I’ve told myself that someday I was going to write a book that pushed the frontiers of language like they did.

I was pondering something totally unrelated to anything when the idea hit me for the voice to use in an unspecified book. I don’t want to go into it too much, but as I started mentally composing sentences with it, the rules of usage began to pop into my head. It’s a language where, out of necessity, much is contextual, and you can’t really decipher the meaning of some words without seeing the words that surround it. There were some other side rules that popped up, too, such as modifying a word without without physically adding another word to the sentence (!!!).

The sample paragraphs I composed on the way in to work might or might not be the plot (well, there really wasn’t one – yet). I had a couple of character names that I liked and an opening sentence, but nothing beyond that. I’ll have to see what clings to the idea in time to come.

The only other things I know are that it, like A Clockwork Orange and Riddley Walker, should be a fairly short novel, probably 50 to no more than 70k words. Any more than that would probably cause brain hemorrhaging in readers.

I also know that I’d probably have to be really established in order to publish this one. As in the publisher thinking, “Well, we do publish Joe Clifford Faust, so we’ll put this one out as a courtesy to him.”

This makes at least two books like this that I plan to write. The other will probably come at or near the end of my career (and might possibly end it) – but I think it would make a fine capstone novel. Unless I write it sooner.


*The evening drive is rarely productive – I’m usually tired, brain-dead or both, and I usually listen to a CD or Sean Hannity just to escape.


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