Sunday, November 27, 2011

Oh No Na No...

So it is November, the month of birds and words, at least for a few more days. I've had my fill of crispy skin and stuffing, but I'm still trying to get my full share of words in by the time December rolls around later this week.

I'm stuck at 26,000 words and change, satisfactory for me--when I started NaNoWriMo earlier this month, I had no intention of writing a novel, much less reaching 50,000 words. I've "won" NaNoWriMo twice before, and while I reveled in the sheer intensity of the month, in the end I used little of what I wrote in my final products. I don't consider those wated minutes or words; indeed, writing intensely provided a chance to build character, context, history. In other words, a way to get to know my characters intimately.

So, I decided to give myself the chance to wallow in writing for the sheer heck of it. Pre-writing, I call this process of crafting character sketches, scenes, playing out plots and subplots. Indeed, most of my writing has been answering the questions "who?" and "what if?" as they pertain to my current work-in-progress The Minister's Wife.

Who set the church on fire?
What if Maryam, the minister's wife, loved her husband's younger brother?
Who should die -- Nikko or Josh?
What if Reverend Martin decides to become an ardent peacenik?
What if Jill tells Maryam she's afraid of her son hurting her? hurting himself?
Who in the congregation will the poet prey on next?
What would happen if Maryamd reveals even one of the many secrets the congregants tell her?

There's lots of riches in my 26k words, lots of good stuff to mine later. But for now, the muse is in residence, the editor on a long cruise in sunnier climes, and I am pacing out my third novel as it unreels. A small snippet from this morning's session...

Friday night, after the players leave and her husband drives Pauline back to the nursing home where she lives, is Kay’s favorite time of the week. For twenty minutes she has the sanctuary to herself. The quiet soothes her. No television blaring, no Henry bothering her for this little thing or that, no voices from her past filling her head. For just a few minutes, she feels a remnant of herself.

She runs her fingers over the chimes Reverend Martin uses to end the moment of silence after the meditation. This is the only part of the service she misses, and she wishes anyone other than Reverend martin delivered those soothing words and allowed the silence. But he is still here, and when she remembers this, it seems a small stone lodges in her throat and a bitter steel taste fills her mouth.

She picks up an empty coffee mug, someone carelessly left on the fireplace mantle. A cricket, trapped somewhere inside, chirps its melancholic song. Odd, a cricket in December. Though the weather has been warm, a protracted Indian summer. While in the kitchen she empties the coffee urn and rinses it with warm water. She puts the bags of pretzels and nuts in the last cupboard, on the highest shelf so that pesky child will not pilfer them when he comes to church. Brat! If she’d had children, she would never let them run wild through the building, taking what did not belong to them.

Kay turns off the kitchen lights and then the overhead lights in the sanctuary. For a few moments everything is a perfect slate of black and she forgets where she is, forgets she is in a church and panic clutches at her chest, she is in the closet, the closet, and she hears someone crying ‘Mama, mama, please’ and the mothball wool of the coats drape over her, attack her. She fumbles for the light switch, and the room returns – alter, banner, chalice, kitchen, stacked chairs, speckled linoleum floor. She breathes again, the stone dislodges.

But she hates the over-bright fluorescence and she wants her peace. Just an instant. So she opens the drawer of the small table holding the chalice and withdraws the matches. Her small ritual, her way of making good with the god she is not sure she any longer believes in. With the matches and candle in hand, she returns to the light switch and the room goes black again. But this time Kay is not frightened, she knows where she is. Her eyes adjust, she walks carefully across the sanctuary again to the altar.

The sulphur smell of the match fills the air. The small flame flickers and Kay touches the thick white candle in the middle of the chalice. It almost flickers out, but then grows stronger. The walls gleam golden. Her shadow wavers, a giant against the ceiling. She picks up a thinner taper and lights in from the large candle.

For John, she says, my lovely son. She grinds the end of the taper into the bowl of sand, and lights a second. For Bill, I miss you, my love. My one true love. The second candle stands beside the first. She considers lighting a candle for her mother. The wick takes, then falters. For Henry.

She stands before the candles, the warmth filling her face, filling the sanctuary. For a moment, the world stills. Grace fills her, forgiveness, even for Henry. Even for Martin. Her eyes close. Yes, even for Martin.

Outside, a horn bleats. Kay rushes for her coat, her purse, and enters the night.



  1. Good writing!

    And it's so cute that in this passage, there's a Henry who bothers her for this little thing and that.

    Fiction; where would it be without life to inform it!

  2. Really, really, REALLY good writing. Wow, Linda, I sure hope you don't abandon this piece. The atmosphere in the church is outstanding, the details wonderful. You're not rushing it along -it's peaceful and lovely and full of angst. Already am half in love with Kay. I really think you've latched on to a wonderful novel here. Good luck!

  3. I would be very proud of those words too. So glad you found what you needed in the rush that is Nanowrimo. Your work so far is very intriguing.

  4. I love the peaceful moment and the forgiveness in the end. The closet was a bit claustrophobic though.

  5. Thanks all for indulging me. Kay is a minor character, though she may prove to be the undoing of the church and the minister. So. We will see.

    Kay is NOT the minister's wife. So life does not quite inform fiction, Sir M! Maryam is the wife, and perhaps I shall introduce her on these pages soon (though she will soon be getting an official debut soon enough).

    It has been good to return to work on a larger project. Yes. Peace...