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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

    My name is James Black. I'm on Facebook and Twitter. Friend and/or follow me if you like.

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Coming Apart All Over Again

My novel is “about” a lot of things, including the war in Iraq: the “Mission” that was “Accomplished” many years ago but that continues to drag on and drag down many lives in the process. Although I have the right to speak openly about it here, in the novel, I need to tell the stories of some characters affected by the war. If my feelings come through, fine, and maybe that even strengthens the writing, but the emphasis needs to be on characters, settings, scenes, actions, choices. Telling the story is not enough; I have to make you believe it.

The metaphor for my novel is an explosion. Or maybe I mean that’s the shape. The point of impact is where you expect to find the most damage. In that sense, the characters closest to one another at any given moment are what the novel is about. But in an explosion pieces break off. Abstractions seem real when they’re flying at you. Here’s the excerpt:

You find fingers and bits of bone and maybe an eye among toys and garbage and jagged pieces of the Humvee that was torn apart by the IED placed in a ditch or the shell from a Bradley tank. You haven’t expected to find these things, but they force you to stop and think about what’s going on. You trace their trajectories, put the objects and people back together in your mind, use hindsight to imagine the soldiers in the Humvee driving on patrol past the children in front of the house, unaware of what is about to happen.

But you don’t see the finger on the button that sets off the explosion, and you don’t have time to count the shards of metal that fly through the air, that rip through the bodies of the vehicle, the soldiers, and the children. You barely notice a pink mist of blood that hangs briefly in the air. Later, when you play it all over again in your mind, you remember that the mist seemed to hover forever, but within seconds it evaporated. You think you make sense of senselessness, but knowing that something’s going to happen wouldn’t have helped you prevent everything from coming apart all over again; it just would have given you time to flinch.

Today’s total: 1532 words

2 Responses

  1. I really appreciate that you’re sharing your blog as well as the glimpses you give of your novel. As a reader, I’m used to enjoying an artist’s finished work, but this is like having a window into the process and discipline. Thank you!


  2. I just read the previous comment and couldn’t agree more. Such a rarity to have access to a writer’s inner thoughts in the process. Best teaching tool I have witnessed to date. You are being heard and learning hasn’t been this much fun in a l-o-n-g time. Thank you!

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