The Rest of the Story
“All good writing leaves something unexpressed.”― Christian Nestell Bovee
Not too long ago, I was browsing an antique store with a good friend. The store had little piles of old photos (turn of the century, early 1900’s) lying all around here and there. I kept stopping to look at them, and I expressed to my travel buddy what a strange thing it was to look at random old photos that did not belong to me or anyone that I knew. However, it reminded me that old photos were a source of inspiration as I began researching and writing a novel. What looks like a rather ordinary photo to most people can leave me wondering about the slightest little thing I see. There is the intended subject of the photo, and then there is the rest of the story.
In a recent review of Dunnigan, someone told me, “I just wanted a little more detail at times.” When I read it, it brought a smile to my face because my first thought was. “ME TOO!” The first draft of the book was right around one hundred thousand words, and deciding what to add and subtract from all of that was not easy. In fact, each person in the novel has a complete life story that unwritten, even though it dwells out in the clouds of my imagination ( and of everyone who gets to know them). While there are things I know about each character that never made it into the book, there are many other things that I do not know! I am often asked if Dunnigan will have sequels. . .
With that in mind, I wanted to use this week’s blog to express my utter distaste for having had to decide how much of the ‘whole story’ to tell. There was such a delicate balance, and readers will undoubtedly have different opinions on whether or not I struck that balance. As I lived the story through Noah, Sara, Ransom and others, I had many questions about why they were responding to events the way they were. As those questions arose, I also had to determine which ones had answers that were material to what was happening in Dunnigan, Alabama–1929. It was, by far, the most challenging part of reaching the final product.
Voltaire famously said, “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” I tend to agree. I reference Gone with the Wind a lot in my writing, because it is such a well known work. In the early 2000’s the Margaret Mitchell estate fully authorized what I would characterize as prequels to Gone with the Wind. Donald McCaig masterfully wrote both of them (I’ll include the links at the end), and they come in at 100,000 and 126,000 words, even though the main story was already just over 400,000 words long! There was a fantastic story in the characters of Rhett Butler and of Ruth (Mammy) that would have made Gone with the Wind an even longer epic. So you see, no matter how much you write, there is always the story and the rest of the story.