Today I thought I would work on plans for my second novel, the sequel to the Big Life.Â I have a few scenes written for it, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that I need a firmer plan.
Two nights ago my writing group workshopped the first couple of scenes.Â And we wound up having a long conversation about sex.
I have known for a long time that the chronic issue in Book 2 will be the resolution of Kitty and Gallo’s relationship.Â It will be about them coming together in that final way that people do.Â It will be about the transition from that youthful love that says “I want you” to that more mature love that says “I want you to be happy.”Â It will be partially, but certainly not entirely, about sex.
As Book 2 opens, they have been dating for a year.Â And they are not yet doing the nasty.Â My writing group found this sort of implausible.Â Â Â They thought it would be torture for my male lead, and just not reasonable.Â They’re a great bunch, and I don’t intend to discount their collective opinion lightly.Â But there’s a certain piling on that can take place in a workshop, where Reader A says something bothered him, and that sounds like a reasonable complaint to Reader B, who echoes it even though it didn’t actually bother him during his read-through.Â And regardless of whether that happened in this case, it’s my name on the book.Â And I’m just not sure I agree.
Here are my points:Point #1: We’re talking about 1929.Â I’m sure people had normal sexual desires in the twenties, but I’m not entirely persuaded that their sexual expectations were similar to today’s.Â I think women found sexual advances more threatening once upon a time.Â Because they were more threatening.Â Condoms weren’t really in popular use until WWII (they were widely distributed in an effort to keep down V.D. among the troops).Â And yes, people always had ways of preventing pregnancy, but they weren’t necessarily as safe and reliable as today’s.
And Point #2: There’s real time, and then there’s story time, and the same rules don’t necessarily apply to both.Â My readers will be aware, when they pick up Book 2, that a year has passed since Book 1.Â But they won’t have felt it pass.Â I think this makes a difference.Â I don’t think the first three or four years of Ross and Rachel putting each other through the ringer on Friends bothered me, even though I found their inability to communicate maturely about their relationship at least as bizarre as my group found my characters’ sexual abstinence (and yes, after five or six years, it did get old).Â The way I see it, it’s a story.Â It really only exists when we’re observing it.Â You can say that those first seasons of Friends took three years, or you can say that they took thirty-six hours.Â The real answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
All of this is to say that I am not quite sure whether to follow my writing group’s advice and either (1) compress the timeline between books, or (2) move my characters into a sexual relationship before the start of Book 2.Â Currently I am leaning toward No, but I would welcome any opinions on the matter.
4:41 PM: What I need, I think, is a good overview of Book 2.Â I have 3 ideas for significant storylines, and bandwidth for about two.Â Which means it’s time to flesh them all out and see which one to cut.
5:37 PM: A lot of what I do when I’m planning, or trying to work out problems in a story, is a kind of stream of consciousness writing.Â It’s all stuff like, “Ok, so I no longer like the ending where she kills her husband, I need another twist.”Â Basically, this is my way of forcing myself to think.Â I try to keep it going as rapidly as possible, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last hour or so.Â I am getting close to trying to shoehorn all three stories in.Â If I do cut one, I think it’s going to be the one I introduced to my writing group on Tuesday.
6:02 PM: Distracting myself with chat.
6:05 PM: I now have a very good intersection for Plotlines #1 and #3.Â Which means things aren’t looking so hot for plotline #2.
7:48 PM: Still mostly bits and pieces.Â But time for dinner anyway.