Some of my readers have requested a sequel to my recent novel Scar Jewelry. While I am thrilled that they care enough about the characters to want a part two, I suspect the requests come from desire to witness certain conversations and interactions that, well, frankly, won’t ever occur, even if I were to write a sequel. Such additions would make the story more tidy, maybe – but no longer right.
Here’s the bottom line: at any moment, life stretches in all directions and sometimes the options feel endless. But most of those options are fleeting opportunities and it can really be too bad if we don’t say something or do something or change something when we have the chance.
If this is a spoiler it is an enigmatic one that shouldn’t harm the reading experience.
I have had so many jobs, and quite a few careers. Writing is my calling, so that has persisted through change after change of day job. But if I could have just one job – and if I got my choice – I would be a musician. I guess I would need to be a musician who writes songs, as I’ll always need to write. Yes, that’s a plan I could live with.
The only problem with my being a musician is that I’m no good at it. No talent. No vision. Incredibly average voice. Skill that rarely breaks past the rudimentary barrier. My best hope of being a musician was back in the early days of punk,when desire trumped ability. I don’t know why I wasn’t in a band back then, say a goof of a band like Heather once had in my novel Scar Jewelry. I suppose I lacked the right kind of cojones.
All four of my novels (three completed, one in progress) have musicians in them and two of them have music as a focus. I only just noticed this as a pattern. Sometimes the author is the last to know.
Sometimes I read non-fiction but it never grabs me. It’s novels that grab and shake and catapult and expand me. I read novels to get immersed in the lives of people I can care about. I don’t have to like them. I hope they will be complicated, not trivial or easy to understand; nothing better than a character who baffles me – so long as I perceive that the author isn’t B.S.ing me, that the mysteries and the discrepancies are resolvable, and that once I spend more time with the character, I will start to understand.
Authors don’t fully understand the characters they “create”, even when they think they do. There’s a part of me that has the chutzpah to think that I design my characters. There’s another, dazzled part of me that senses them flying in through a door I’ve managed to open, just a crack.
The best characters are like great song lyrics. A few twists of phrase and they change me, profoundly and forever.
Browsing unknown books, I’m less likely to choose a novel written by someone young. That has always been true, even back when I was a youngster myself. Certainly, good writing is good writing and age has little to do with plot, or pacing, or style. But when it comes to characterization, experience matters. A writer needs to have been around life’s block a few times in order to write people and their relationships. I seek novels that teach me something about humans – including me. Now that’s not to say that better understanding is a given with age. Cluelessness can be the most persistent of traits.