First line of first (unpublished) novel: Between Lives.

22 Oct

I’m recovering from some pneumonia-esque sickness after being strafed by freezing cold rain in a junior high soccer match. As I learned a long time ago, no good deed goes unpunished.

I decided to mix things up a little bit for ye old blog here, and post the first lines of some of my lesser (they’re almost all unpublished) novels. I couldn’t even find a digital copy of my first novel, begun when I was 19, titled Between Lives. It’s a doozy, with plenty of bad writing, following a wishy washy  main character traveling across the U.S. There’s a fantasy world that he sort of phases in and out of. The trick of it is that all the characters in the fantasy world are fictional characters cherry picked from other novels, and all the characters in the “real” world are writers that I fancied. It’s episodic and sort of crazy. The novel has dream sequences, battle scenes, a pumpkin queen, a mashup of Alice in Wonderland meets Babbitt.

I’ll never go back to it, never rework it, never let another person read it. But I’m proud of it anyway. It holds within it the ambitions and dreams of a decent, if naive, young writer.

I wrote it for six years, and felt certain, when I finished, that a career of novel writing awaited. I was wrong. The big thing I learned, and it took me two more novels to learn it, was that the characters have to act on their reality. They have to try and resist the plot. They have to drive the action. They can’t just be acted upon.

And yet. The hard realities of the world, the way we all sort of sway within a larger historical context that we can’t really see as it’s happening, this has to be in a novel, too. It’s a fine line, and one that I’ve struggled with every step of the way.

The first line goes something like, “After a night of bizarre dreaming, Jim Musselman awoke feeling like he was someone else.”

(I was into Kafka and Sinclair Lewis and Neil Gaiman and Jack Kerouac and Cormac McCarthy at the time. You can see each writer’s influence come to the fore and then recede, like I was trying on so many hats.)

Think of this as a semi-regular feature. I have two yards of manuscripts, letters, short stories and plays written over the course of the last 16 years. More to come as I comb through my own archives.


3 Responses to “First line of first (unpublished) novel: Between Lives.”

  1. Ann October 22, 2012 at 2:53 am #

    I was just telling my students about this the other day, the festival scene, and the ear with earring.


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