Monday, July 17, 2006

Journal of a "Novel"-Entry 18

Turn the Hand Crank, It's Time to Get This "Novel" Going

It's only been five days since my last post, but I am going to add another journal entry today anyway, for two reasons: 1) Duke is on life-induced blog hiatus, thanks to busy family life and crushing work pressures, both of which I can relate to, and 2) my last post was short, and things are starting to move slightly on the novel front, and I do mean slightly. But since I am thinking more about where I am going in the novel, that means it's time for another post, which is, after all, just another way of thinking about it.

I am just starting work on the opening chapter of the main body of my novel, which is the story of Walter Brogan. And even though I have written maybe 1 1/3 pages max so far, it is pretty interesting to be doing already. In my opening the young Walter, age 23, stands before the mirror in his wife's father's house on his wedding day in 1924, looking himself over and reflecting on the fact that his own father is not there to witness the event. Below him, relatives bustle around as the rest of the household prepares the bride for the wedding. The house in which they are both preparing is the one in which they will live until they can get on their own two feet, something Walter experiences trepidation over because he's not sure he wants to live in his father in law's house for any length of time.

After working for about two months on the prologue for the book, it is fun to even attempt a page's worth of writing on this part of the story, simply because of when it is set in time, and I have to admit, as I have in several other posts, that I have no idea what I am doing. I have to try to picture Walter standing there in whatever a groom in the 1920s would be wearing to even get past the first few paragraphs of the story. So I have been doing a little bit of research about life in the 1920s, clothes, what people wore, what people looked like, what people had in their homes, etc. The fact that I am going to have to research a lot of the details in this story is going to slow it down to an even more ridiculous pace, but it has to be done. For example, I know now that most fashionable suits for men would have been single-breasted, that he probably would have had a cravat and not a bow tie, and that he probably would have worn a black hat to go with it. I have found out a few other things here and there about the time and what people wore, but mostly I am just winging it, and will try to go back and fix any problems I might find later on. Who knows, but it is fun to try.

That is one thing I am happy about in this early stage of trying to grope out a story for this idea of mine: the fun aspect of imagining a small town in a totally different time from our own and what people and places would have been like. It is an interesting process to attempt and a good creative challenge. I enjoy it.

One advantage to the fact that my dad was born and raised in small towns is that they probably didn't look all that different in some ways back then than they did now. The house my Dad was born in in real life was built in 1915. I've seen that house, because it's still there, so I can base my fictional telling of the house Walter Brogan is standing in in the opening of my story on that house. The surrounding fields probably don't look any different than they did in the 1920s. Certainly the overall landscape can't have changed that much. I can almost picture the scene even though I never lived anywhere close to that time.

The vehicles and roads would probably be different. Where my Dad was born there are today two highways within sight of the street; in 1920 those highways surely were not there yet as most highways were not around then. Some roads were paved by then, but not so many in rural towns. Needless to say the modes of transportation would have been a lot different. I imagine Walter Brogan to have his own car, a black Ford Model T or a 'Tin Lizzie', the kind that requires the user to turn a hand crank to get the thing started (you couldn't get a Model T that was NOT black). The Model T was a standard vehicle by 1924, having been introduced in 1909, but from what i have learned it was basically the same model in the 20s and was still popular, at least until the late 1920s.

Walter's father in law, however, I doubt would be driving a Model T, because it was already starting to become passe by this point. P.G. Heinricks, the father of Walter's betrothed, Greta, is a fiery, risk-taking businessman, whose bottom line happens to be pretty solid in the 1920s because of the dance hall he runs, which is booming. It's the roaring 20s, and people are living it up. The Great War is long over, and the celebration hasn't abated. Nope, P.G. ain't driving no Model T. He's driving a Cadillac, the most luxurious model out there by the upstart automobile company called General Motors, makers of Chevrolets, Buicks, LaSalles, and Cadillacs. Greta Brogan is going to the church in style. Walter Brogan will go, fatherless, in his own beat-to-hell Model T with his mother.

Other characters to be introduced in this chapter will include Peter Heinricks, P.G.'s son and Greta's brother, and Myron Boudreaux, a former classmate of Greta's and friend of the Heinricks family.

So we have before us a wedding chapter, with vows, music, flowers, old cars, tears of happiness, and some rumblings of future events. It's going to be interesting to try to write, but the things I imagine have gotten my juices flowing, and the rest is going to be up to persistence, revision and the willingness to press on through the inevitable down periods when nothing is coming and nothing is working. I hope my vision of who my grandfather was, and to some extent who my own dad is, will be enough to keep me pressing forward, in order to pay some kind of artistic tribute to the people who I descend from. But that remains to be seen.

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