December 30th, 2004


nowhere fast

There's not much good to be said about the writing yesterday. I had another go at making the second section of Chapter One work, to no avail. I retreated into my notes again, where I may have at least discovered the source of my difficulties, which relates to the structure not only of this particular chapter but the structure of the book as a whole. Anyone familiar with my novels (and if you're not, why are you reading this?) knows that I tend to begin with two or three chapters which establish the central characters, allowing these introductions to flow largely from the POVs of the characters themselves in an attempt to create an intimacy between them and the reader with as little narrative intrusion as possible. The chapters usually bear the name of the character in question. For example, in Threshold, Chapter One is "Chance," Chapter Two is "Dancy," Chapter Three is "Deacon," and Chapter Four is "Sadie." However, in Daughter of Hounds, I was considering a new approach, one where the reader would meet three characters in the first chapter — Emmie, Deacon, and Sadie. Moreover, I've been attempting to forward the story a little more than I usually do while these initial introductions are occurring. This was working just fine with the first section, "Emmie," but moving on to "Deacon," everything has stalled out. And I'm considering redesigning the novel (though not the story). But if I do this, matter introduced in the prologue will not be treated again directly until Part 2, and the characters about whom Part 1 is concerned will largely vanish during Part Two, reappearing in Part Three, and one of the two central characters, though introduced at length in the prologue, will not appear in the novel proper until Part 2, which could easily be a couple hundred pages into the printed novel.

And this is why my novels tend to involve as few characters as possibe and unfold over as short a period of time as possible and in a relatively restricted geographical area. It's a modified form the Neoclassical insistence on the observance of the unities of time, place, and action, and its always made a lot of sense to me. In Murder of Angels, I stepped away from it and felt off balance most of the time I was writing that book. And though MoA was well-received, I've sought in Daughter of Hounds to reign things in a little, at least in terms of setting. But there are a lot of characters and a good deal of time involved. And these things, in part, are responsible for my present troubles.

After I finished with my notes yesterday, I read Shirley Jackson's very excellent "Pillar of Salt" and then Algernon Blackwood's, "The Empty House." Also, I encountered something odd in the introduction — written by Donna Tartt (The Secret History) — to the volume of Jackson I've been reading from. I have read, though offhand I can't recall where, that Shirley Jackson's inspiration for Hill House was a building in Manhattan which she'd only glimpsed and never investigated and which was long ago torn down. I'm pretty sure I read this in an interview with her. Anyway, Donna Tartt claims that, "Hill House still stands. I have visited it many times. It is owned by Bennigton College [Vermont], which uses it for student housing." Clearly, this conflicts with what I recall about Jackson's inspiration, though it's certainly possible the fictional Hill House had more than one inspiration. Regardless, now I have to figure this all out.

Yesterday, UPS brought me copies of the "Mercury" and "The Worm in My Mind's Eye" chapbooks, along with the Nyarlathotep CD that accompanies the limited edition of The Dry Salvages. The appearance of "Mercury" on my doorstep gives me some glint of hope that we may be close to seeing the long-delayed subpress edition of Low Red Moon (as the chapbook was published to accompany the limited of LRM). I'll keep you posted.
  • Current Music
    Icon of Coil, "Regret"