Adding the Unicorn
I don’t add unicorns to my novels, but sometimes I can tell that a scene needs something more. The stakes need to be higher. A surprise needs to occur. A bone needs to get snapped. Last week, I tried adding a dead sister to my novel. For a whole day, I played around with how that could tie certain threads together and add resonance to family scenes, and then I realized I was crazy. It would mean telling an entirely different story from the one I’m telling. Dead sisters cannot casually be thrown into this novel. They would take over, emotionally, even if they’ve been dead for a while, and this is not a book about grief. I should know this. I do know this. But I’m experimenting, and anything is fair game.
I like my book. I do. It fascinates me and keeps me up nights, but none of this means I have it figured out yet. This creative puzzle is a stubborn, unyielding one, and all I know for sure is that the thinking I’ve done so far has set up nice problems, but not the answers. For answers, I need to cast out for other ideas, likely and unlikely, and play them around, which means maintaining an open-minded spirit of hope.
Let’s count this as progress. The dead sister is gone again, taking that day of work with her, but she left a teddy bear behind, and I wouldn’t have found the bear without her. Maybe today I’ll get another idea that’s just the one I need.