I didn’t know what my novel What Would Water Do was about until I finished it. Because Averil asked, and because of recent conversations with Raina and Josey, I will tell you specifically what I learned.
- My writing (at least for this novel) is very cinematic. I emphasize the way things look so much that for the reader, it sometimes feels like watching a movie. It probably could have been a screenplay instead of a novel. I realized this somewhere along the line and fought against it, but the places where I try to be more literary are the things that don’t fit. Now I know not to fight it. The story (about celebrities, wannabes, hipsters, Hollywood) lends itself to a superficial treatment–not superficial in the shallow sense but one that shows the tension on the surface, one that entertains– I can fight my highbrow urges and do this, I can trust that the underlying intelligence doesn’t need to be forced.
- The most fun parts are the ones where I use magical realism. Like chapter 10, my favorite, in which all Drew’s favorite writers come to life and give her relationship advice. Okay, okay, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s fun. I can do this.
- When people ask me what my book is about, I blush. I don’t know what to tell them. Why do I do this? Because it’s about celebrities, wannabes, hipsters, and Hollywood, and when I describe it, it sounds stupid. But it’s so much more than that! I just re-read it and I can say that without wavering. It’s like watching a mud wrestling match between Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, with commentary by Murakami. I’m trying to bridge the gap between academic types and those who like trashy magazines. I just need to fully embrace it. I think I can do this!
- My characters’ motivation is much more clear now. Drew, the brainy introverted writer, wants to be the main character, the one whose interpretation of reality we subscribe to. She believes that writers are the best at “reading” the world. But Mae, the delicious actress, has a mind of her own. She’s not just a mouthpiece dutifully reading the lines she is given. And Lang, the director, is a maestro at conducting reality from behind the scenes. I want to accentuate the tension between the women, then take it further. I think it’s a rather macho idea that only one can prevail– perhaps I have glossed over the idea that all these women come together to make a wonderful movie, that in the end, it was their partnerships and not their power struggles that did it.
- My friend Ré at Sparks In Shadow helped me with emotions. Sometimes I get stuck in my head and feel more comfortable in the realm of ideas rather than feelings. Many times, Ré wrote comments that helped me understand how I needed to go there. Her suggestions made my writing much, much better. Thank you, Ré!
- All this adds up to a personal revelation, as well. All my life, I have struggled to appear smart. Being female, 5’1”, and curvy, with the face and voice of a child, I have fought to assert myself as something more. No amount of schooling and fancy degrees and sexy honors and titles really helped. But I’m in my 40’s now and I think I can let that all go. This novel is, in a way, my way of healing that dichotomy in myself, of unifying my own separate parts.
Do you see the theme? I do. Loud and clear, in technicolor, with a flashing strobe. And it’s very exciting!