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Genre Mapping

I’m not sure what genre I’m trying to write. My first explanation led professors to call it a “novel in stories.” Upon further discussion, I think I have managed to totally confuse us all. Thus, I drew a map.

Maybe this is just a normal novel with many narrators. Maybe it is more novel-in-stories than I thought. Maybe it is a hybrid.

I suppose I shall just write and see where it takes me. Part of me likes the idea of a slightly more disjointed book. That way, I could jump time and note it by time stamps or alluding to national events rather than a flowery paragraph of how everything has changed and an oh, isn’t it dramatic?. The characters could show the changes for themselves in how they act, interact, and react.

Lots to think about, and probably lots more to pray about.

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Prayer and Setting

My professor and Madeleine L’Engle talk a lot about praying for one’s work, that then one can serve the work and the work becomes bigger than the writer. I didn’t really understand what this meant. I had prayed for my stories in the past and that seemed like a natural idea to me, especially since I try to talk explicitly about faith in most of my writing. Serving the work was a little confusing, but it seemed to reminisce of those times when I would be writing and inspiration would strike and I would write for hours more. Thinking about my book idea, I knew it could be bigger than me, but I also knew it was nowhere near that stage yet.

Two nights ago, I realized that in the two years I had been turning this book idea over in my mind, I had never prayed about it. I was stuck with a main conflict, a connecting theme, a list of characters, and two introductory chapters that I hated. I could write a more convincing section on the father than on the two main characters, but I knew it wasn’t his story. Hence the reason I decided to work from the middle out for Practicum: if I knew how Dawson and Cadence acted in the hospital, I could reverse engineer their characters in the beginning. Even with all of that in my mind, though, the story was more hole than whole.

Two nights ago I wrote in my prayer journal for God to please use this work for His glory.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I suddenly wondered if I should change the time period of the setting. Though this idea probably stemmed from an initial desire to avoid interviewing people (even if they were my boyfriend’s parents), I came up with two pages worth of ideas in about ten minutes. The economic recession and my firsthand knowledge of what the city was like in the late 2000s provided tension through the roof and brought the outside world in ten times better than the relative calm of the 80s. Changing the setting made the rest of the story make sense.

I know praying for God to use my writing for His glory will not magically work every time like it did yesterday. Even so, I believe that, over time, the work will be bigger than me. Thus, every baby step forward I make in this process is ultimately for His glory.

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Thoughts on Madeleine L’Engle

I read ahead in Walking on Water. In general, I really love this book. It’s written rather similarly to Gilead, which was probably the best fiction book I have read in college. Both Gilead and Walking on Water use rich vocabulary, intellectual lines of thinking, and repetitious references to grace. Because of these two books, grace might be my favorite Biblical concept.

On page 86 of Walking on Water (Convergent 2016 version), L’Engle says, “So we must daily keep things wound: that is, we must pray when prayer seems dry as dust; we must write when we are physically tired, when our hearts are heavy, when our bodies are in pain.”

I need to find ways to keep my clock wound, as L’Engle suggests. I need to pray more, to write the visual prayers and not just the list prayers, to actually listen for what God’s voice might sound like. I need to write more, to not be scared of the blank page, to not get distracted as soon as I run out of ideas after a few paragraphs.

Discipline might be the biggest thing I work on this semester. I’m trying to get to bed at a consistent time. I’m trying to establish consistent writing habits through this blog. I’m trying to pay better attention in church. And yet, I’m working on spontaneity, too. I’m trying to not get so stuck in my routines that I never do anything but work. I’m trying to not eat the same sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner. I’m trying to not avoid conversations with people that might disrupt my schedule.

It’s a paradox, and a tension, and it seems like that is what good writing, and maybe even a good life, is made of.

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What Everyone Runs From

For the week of 1/10/17

A list of possible characters and what they are running from:

  • Dawsonhis past (the loss of his parents; instead of building walls, he tries desperately to protect)
  • Cadence: her past (her father’s overbearing control, her mother’s unhappiness)
    • Needs more development
  • Nurse Ann: heartbreak (avoids relationships so she can’t get hurt)
    • Perhaps her story relates to Uncle Jerry’s; see below
  • Homeless Patient: handouts and family problems (his pride prevents him from accepting help in the hospital and from apologizing to his wife for a plethora of small problems)
    • Twist: he is willing to give up his comfortable lifestyle and live on the streets to avoid acknowledging he disappointed his wife
  • Runaway Patient: pain (physically, surgery and recovery; emotionally, feeling useless)
  • Cadence’s Father, Matthew Littlefailure (to provide for his family, to make his wife happy, to secure Cadence’s material well-being through a marriage to Harry)
  • Cadence’s Mother, Lindy Little: gender stereotypes (being a submissive homemaker, being a “victim”)
    • Submissive despite, or because of, her mother’s strong will?
    • Leads her to change over the course of the novel
  • Dawson’s Uncle, Jerry Evans: loneliness (loss of his closest relations and now Dawson)
    • Struggles with burnout as he overworks himself to avoid the loneliness at home
    • Perhaps causes Lindy’s change as she helps him cope
      • Could occur in the hospital to tie back to Dawson and Cadence
  • Cadence’s Neighbor, Harryhis geeky temperament ( marrying Cadence would cement his position as a normal citizen rather than goofy eccentric)
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First Ideas

For the week of 1/10/17

A synthesis of the ideas I worked on this past week:

  • The overall idea for the book follows a couple who run away from home, elope, and start working in a hospital. The male protagonist named Dawson could work as a security guard, while the female protagonist named Cadence could work in housekeeping. This storyline needs more development, which I hope to gain as a side effect of writing climactic events for my Practicum project.
  • The book will include anecdotes both in the hospital and in Franklin that explore the idea of running away. For the Practicum project, I would like to write about one particular event in the hospital when a homeless man comes, despite refusing the person paying for his care. He should be full of surprises, though. Perhaps he is homeless by choice to avoid conflict with his wife. Perhaps his wife is the one paying for his care. If not his wife, perhaps he is wealthier than the person paying for his care and that is why he refuses.
  • Another patient’s story, which should perhaps precede the aforementioned story, is a man running away from pain. In this instance, the man is running away literally: he  tries to run out of the hospital to avoid some painful treatment, like surgery or perhaps physical therapy. In light of this story, when the homeless man tries to wheel himself out of the hospital to avoid incurring a larger bill, Dawson might make a witty comment about the runaway patients.