“I dream of an art so transparent that you can look
through and see the world.” - Stanley Kunitz
Realistic fiction. During the course of writing and, more importantly, rewriting a novel, the demands of realism will conflict with the demands of fiction. On the macro level of the novel we are committing an act of fabrication, and on the micro level we are concerned only that the elements of the story be palpable, convincing, “true.”
When I reread sections of a novel-in-progress, often what stops me is a sense of over-determination. The characters seem to be speaking and acting as if the whole story’s been revealed to them. If I want the reader to reach through the artifice and finger the world, then I have to remember that only the writer knows the entire story. Elemental, for sure, but the division of imaginative labor is subtle.
As the writer, the plot is my problem, and I can’t enlist characters to do the heavy lifting. My characters, if afforded their full portion of humanity and integrity, not only don’t have awareness of the overarching design of my novel, they couldn’t care less about it. They’re far too busy living their dramatic lives to be concerned with my book. They move through the present moment obsessed with the past and dreading the future – a future that is as unknown to them as mine is to me. Each character’s actions and inaction is being fueled by her own filled-to-the-brim, singular consciousness, with enough directives and self-defeating impulses to last well beyond her fictional lifetime.