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Express and Ellison

I've been keeping a private journal to accompany the writing of my on-again, off-again novel, Express. Here's yesterday's entry, which I'm hoping marks a real turning point.

"That was all I needed, I'd made a contact, and it was as though his voice was that of them all."

That line is from Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, which I'm currently re-reading. I haven't touched Express for nearly six weeks now. Leon's story just wasn't coming to me, but I also couldn't see skipping to the other protagonists while his story is still so utterly unfinished. So I want to stick with Leon, even though his story isn't going anywhere. Sometimes I just need a shove when I get stalled like this. And I might have just found that shove, from Ralph Ellison.

Ellison's quote describes his narrator taking the stage for the first time, in a packed arena, and how he overcomes the potentially overwhelming atmosphere by zeroing in on the voice of a single crowd member, making one connection out of thousands. Suddenly I can see Leon doing something similar - like Ellison's narrator, he will be intimidated by his first performance with the big band, and will cope by connecting with just one audience member. That person might be the woman he earlier saw standing by the cigarette machine, as he listened through the alley door. And she might be the girlfriend of either the bandleader or the club owner, which could add sort of a forbidden-fruit sexual tension to the situation.

It still remains to be seen whether anything ever comes of this. The story is coming to me very slowly.

May 9, 2012 in Fiction | Permalink