Unknown unknowns

... things go whooshing past
… things go whooshing past (the peloton sweeps round the Woking one-way system during the Tour Series 2013)

Wheels (that’s still its working title, and it’s still not going to be its real title) is rolling along quite nicely, sitting just under fifty thousand words. Much of what’s there at the moment is dialogue, stick figures having witty conversations in a thick fog. I’ll have to go back and put in the descriptions later.

So far, so familiar. What is a new experience for me is writing a first person narrator who’s… not unreliable, exactly, but not at all objective. True, I ended up with something similar in Speak Its Name, written in claustrophobically tight third person with a point of view character who wouldn’t come out even to herself. The difference is, Speak Its Name didn’t start out that way. It started out with multiple points of view, with multiple foibles and inconsistencies, but where I always knew what was ‘really’ going on.

Cutting everything down to fit into Lydia’s point of view was interesting. There are things that I knew and she didn’t. The most significant one is that Becky isn’t a trinitarian. If Lydia had known that – well, she’d have to deal with that, and it would add a huge chunk of drama onto a part of the book that really didn’t need any more drama. So I know that, and so do some of the other characters, whose thoughts on the matter we don’t hear, but Lydia never finds out.

Writing first person from scratch, I’m having to spend all my time in one character’s head, and I keep discovering things that he doesn’t know, and can’t know. He’s self-centred and often oblivious to subtext and body language. A friend read through the first couple of chapters few days ago, and made a throwaway comment about another character’s ‘flirtatious wink’.

‘Hang on,’ I said – to myself, ‘that wasn’t flirtatious!’ I wondered if I ought to clarify that it wasn’t flirtatious, and, if so, how.

Except the more I thought about it, the more I realised that… yes, it does make an awful lot more sense if she is flirting with him. Which puts a whole new complexion on the first half of the book, and leaves me with the problem of how to have her get over him, but it also makes the end a lot more convincing.

So now my challenge is to incorporate this new knowledge into the draft. My narrator can stay oblivious, but I can’t.

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