I want to grab a pair of scissors and start cutting up my novel. Maybe I should employ a Dada technique and chuck it up in the air and see how it lands. Where it lands is what the structure will be but I am century too late for this kind of idea and there wouldn’t be much of a market for it. Neither could I do a William S. Burroughs and cut my pages into quarters and piece them back together. Burroughs had the voice to do that and the rationale. I am too nasal to pull that off. It is part of the fear of writing a polyphony novel, a novel of many voices, that you sometimes feel you are drowning in what they are all trying to say. There is a danger that the noise consumes the idea, there are times when the writer cannot stand back. Today, is one of those days and though my characters have been wound up and let loose, I need to step in to make sure that they fit the large landscape of the novel. That is how the novel sometimes differs from the short story, you have more space but with it comes new rules. I don’t want chapters as it does not fit the rationale of a society of many voices under cataclysmic change but neither do I want the reader to feel confused, baffled or believe that I don’t know what to do. There are days I do feel like that but that is between me and the page, not between the page and the reader. Therefore, I have decided on the technique of making sure their names appear like a subheading. This frees me up to create landscape moments that show the reader the wider world of the novel. I have decided that it should be broken into two sections also, as any tipping point in a disaster has two points, the point of attack and the aftermath.
Think of it in terms of the plague, this resonates more now in the eye of the pandemic that sweeps our world. We inch towards one million deaths and probably passed that long ago if you believe that the powers that be, lie. The plague still resonates with us because we survived it, your ancestors against all odds, lived. That means you too. If we cease to see the world as time and see it just as nature intended, DNA. Your DNA survived the plague, it probably carries the scarring from it just as the survivors of the death camps carry it in their’s. Funny thing DNA, it just doesn’t carry what colour eyes your kid will have, it carries your trauma and your joys too. DNA records all the lives that have been before you, all the plagues, all the impact of racism, hatred, love and laughter, there inside of you and your children and their children, and on and on, and on. There is not a single one of us who isn’t atomic, the bombs that landed in Japan, the testing in the Pacific, the fall out from Chernobyl and Fukishima laid down Strontium 90 in all of us. There is a line in the twentieth century where those that will come and dig up our bones can draw a line and say, ‘These people are before the atomic age, these are after’. The after will last such a very long time, Strontium 90 has a half life of 30 years but the scarring is passed on in our DNA. It’s like when sugar arrived, we look at the bones of our ancestors and see the strong teeth and then the sudden change of rotten teeth and abscesses that killed them. Teeth can kill you. We draw the line. We love to add structure. Structuring my novel is like that, these are the people who lived through the event, these are the people after, they are not the same, they do not see the world in the same way. The plague casts long shadows as does any trauma.