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Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Could it work?

I’m toying with a triangle.

Many novels are based on triangular plots but in most the three characters are at each other throats. Mine would be different: not only does the male character feel deep affection for the two women, the women also get on with each other. At least for a large part of the story because that’s the bit that fascinates me. Could it be realistic? There will eventually be conflict because fiction demands it. Otherwise it’s over-sweetened porridge.

Novels also depend on progress but this plot – at the moment – stands still. How can immobility generate narrative tension? – ie, become a page-turner? I don’t know, but the idea is not yet a day old.

The guy’s a cypher but that’s OK, he’ll become a product of the women and that’ll be fun to fashion.

The two women exist – existed (?) – in reality. But only physically, I’ll decide what they think and do. The first dates back to the mid-fifties when she would have been in her late teens: nearly six feet tall, working in a job that leaves her grubby at the end of the day, sharing a tiny terrace house with her mother. Financial privations have left her face impassive. Her hair style is elaborate, swept up into a veritable tower.

The other, mid-forties, has a low-level, poorly paid management position handling the books in a small fabrication shop. The male boss gets her to do the unpleasant stuff, chasing up bad time-keeping, sloppy work, and this has made her shrill. Both she and her husband lost interest in each other a decade ago. Her only luxury is a monthly perm: tight black curls resembling a blackberry.

Bringing them all together will need imagination. If I’ve got any.

6 comments:

  1. Seriously, let the second woman get divorced from the husband. She deserves happiness. There's no shame if a relationship/marriage runs it's course and ends. If the two women are friends, their friendship "might" survive the first woman becoming interested in the second woman's ex husband - but it would never survive adultery. Betrayal would be the icing on the cake for the second woman. Still, a situation like this could survive if the women are honest and caring of each other, and the wife is truly ready to end the marriage and build a new life. The man would have to be respectful of his ex. The ex would need to have something or someone in her life that would allow her to feel okay about stepping away - both from her job and from her marriage. Unhappy women don't come together with others. Bitterness is a cancer.

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    1. Colette: Look, I really apppreciate this but we're talking fiction here. When I asked Could it work? I meant as a novel, generating interest from page to page. Think of great authors and what they did to their characters: Anna in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina enjoyed just a little bit of sexual pleasure and a lifetime of misery. Whereas Tess (Hardy: Tess of the d'Urbvervilles) - I shudder at her fate. And as for Emma Bovary (Flaubert) the novel has, ironically, become a target for feminists as if the author approved of the events described

      I am denying myself the authorial pleasure of torturing my two women (and the the fella for that matter) for more than half of the book. But during that period things must change and not necessarily for the better. A relationship that starts - as they often do - as a result of physical attraction will have become something else after a year or two and another thing entirely after fifty.years. The couple may stick together and say this is due to the four-letter word (no, not that one, the other one which we Brits tend to distrust) but this is usually because that word is used to describe different things over the years.

      As I say fiction is based on conflict, more often mental conflict. We know unpleasantness sells books because, among other things, it lies at the heart of all the whodunnits ever written (ie, somebody kills someone). The prospect I am facing is this: can comfort, agreement and generosity be made interesting? Almost all the authors I've read would say no. Happiness occurs (usually briefly) but it's then followed by unhappiness. In fact I am acknowledging this by saying that there will be changes at the end of the story (by which I suppose I mean unhappiness) but it will be my job to ensure the novelistic aspects of of the earlier happiness are worth reading. That they are not bland and/or predictable.

      Consider this. Self-sacrifice frequently appears in novels as an expression of the four-letter word. Yet the very idea implies unhappiness for someone. Complicated, eh? But no one said writing novels was easy.

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    2. I realized you were asking if the novel could work with that plot line. By all means, you should write what interests and/or challenges you. My opinion is that this situation would be hard to render as believable. However, I would be quite happy if you prove me wrong.

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  2. Colette: You're a good sport. As yet there is no plot line, just three very skimpy characterisations and a few general rules. Your opinion ("hard to render as believable") is almost certainly the majority view, I'd be swimming against the current. But that's what tempted me.

    But here's the snag. To make whatever plot I devise work, instinct tells me I'd have to work very quickly. As with the first novel I ever wrote when I was still living in Bradford with my mother, aged about 20. Arrive home 6 pm, eat dinner, go upstairs and hammer out 2000 words straight on to the typewriter every night. Do you know what 2000 words look like: eight pages of double linespace A4 sheets. Every night. Never mind the quality feel the quantity! These days I bust a gut over just one page. But if Three's Fun ever gets written I suspect it will be about 45 days hard grind. And probably no drinking.

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    1. Collette: I should haved added ... eight pages of double linespace A4 sheets; original stuff, never existed before, vivid so it springs off the page, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic. Prose that parses.

      In fact passing through the authorial wringer at high speed, ending up as chewed string.

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