What do I want with this blog novel?

Posted: February 17, 2009 in Uncategorized

What I really want is for them (the audience) to lean in into the crib and coo enthusiastically; to see features that are possibly, recognisably, mine as a source of delight: ah! she has my eyes — by implication my own eyes are a source of wondering exclamation.
The metaphor breaks down here — or takes a violent turn off. This work is not a fully formed Mini-me. It is more of an experiment in a jar — the story is narrated by twin embryos in the womb. Their perspective is necessarily limited to other people’s stories. They have no real substance yet to constitute their own story.
We do not see Frankenstein’s diary. In the weeks before his successful experiment in re-animating a whole, sewn together from salvaged body parts, we do not see his anxiety; the tentativeness of his steps; his false progress and back-tracking.
This is precisely what I will be documenting What is the genesis of fiction? Where do narrative ideas come from? These are questions that are always asked, after the event, yet remain mysterious.
We can answer the specific: That character was based on my aunt Irma; I read about that event in a newspaper and wondered what if…?; I noticed my reaction to such-and-such and thought to exaggerate it madly. But that’s not really it.
Fiction, like Frankenstein’s creation, is a compound process: this added to that creates a reaction that produces something different from the component parts. this new substance is introduced to another, and so on. This, presumably, is what happened at the beginning of all life…
Let me give an example: the girl in the purple fishnets.
the story is narrated by the embryos. This is the basic conceit established in the first post — which seems to be a kind of ‘first cause’.
One of the post is titled ‘The odd circumstances of their meeting’, following on from the first post which mentions Jacob musing on the rather surprising events that led to me being here on this plane of souls.
When I wrote it I had no idea what the circumstances were. I mention ‘the rather surprising events’, so now I have to justify the phrase. This move is known in Improv as ‘jump and justify’. Essentially, you make a bold statement: “I can’t look: it’s too horrible!” or “So you have found out my secret!” and after justify it.
It is only at this moment of writing that I realise what this project is — a kind of improv fiction. The medium, the technology, is almost beside the point. What is special is the rawness.
With www.chez-swann.com (the previous web novel), I had a sense of the overarching narrative. I knew where it was going. I was in control: the freedom of the form was only apparent.
This time I want to extend, to push the openness, the unpredictability.
So the ‘odd circumstances of their meeting’ prompts the question: in what way odd? We learn (and I am learning just before you, the reader. It is an experiment and I am revealing the contents of the jar only moments after I have seen them myself) that they have met online. But that’s not really odd.
So I add mistaken identity. (A friend of mine described how his most successful chatr-up line was based on a similar mistake: he thought the woman he was talking to was part of the same MENSA event he attended.)
The fat girl in the purple fishnets was simply a punchline. The detail of the purple fishnets was salvaged from my own life: I had recently bought a pair for £1 on whim. The detail was added purely in the interest of a balanced sentence. Compare:

the girl in the corner with red hair and a geometric pattern dress

That’s a bit flat. It too obviously underscores the mistake.
But something has happened with:

Oblivious to the fat girl in the corner with the frizzy red curls, purple fishnets and a black-and-purple geometric print dress.

It’s something akin to Runtgen’s photographic plates or Fleming’s penicillium mould. The accidental has become the story. This, in improv, is known as a ‘turn’.
My immediate reaction:
I am very concerned about the fat girl in the purple fishnets.
This may prove a decisive turn, so why? What motivated it?
I think there are both formal and idiosyncratic reasons. There is a loose family resemblance to ‘Tristram Shandy’. So digressions will be in order. There is her narrative plight, which is more affecting than the happy accidental couple going off to the restaurant together. And there is the purely personal: she’s wearing my tights, dammit, I want to see where she goes with them.

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