“How do you tell a story when you don’t have the facts, but the story’s complete inside you?”
That’s Ben Okri talking about his book Starlighter, which I’ve never read. I recently finished another novel of his, The Famished Road, which I’ll admit felt like far too many words to support the story they carried; but after I finished it and started writing about it for class, I realized that it’s pretty amazing. Everything–the characters, the forward motion, the feeling of the world the book creates–accumulates as you read. In many ways the movement of the novel is more cyclical than linear, but each time something comes back it is intensified, and has subtly shifted. By the end the changes and emotion of the book left me breathless. It’s one of those books I’m very grateful someone made me read.
That’s not a review, and I’m too lazy to make it one; I’m basically procrastinating right now, anyways. Because open in a word document is one of those stories that is complete inside of me, that even has some facts to it (maybe too many), but I’m trying to figure out how on earth to tell it. It is a story of accumulation–the emotional accumulation of some things I’ve seen and some others I’ve been told–not to mention the pressure of all sorts of other things and stories that don’t directly affect the one I’m writing, but still exist in a network with it, inside of its reality.
But the accumulation in my head, while emotionally precise, has no plot, no shape except a personality.
So what does this story look like expressed on the page? Where does the movement come from? What facts are needed, what facts will just clog it up, and how do I navigate that?
It’s what I’m trying to figure out this weekend.
It’s what the deadline asks of me. (That’s March 28.)