It took me over two weeks to extrude Chapter 43 of my work-in-revision, Free Souls. It took that long to do the research, to get facts and dates and locations right, or as right as I can make them short of travelling to Vienna and interviewing people who were there at the time.
But last night, as I was hitting the button to publish, a cold conviction came over me: If I were preparing this novel for formal, in-print publication, this chapter is probably one my editor would tell me to cut. It’s a needless side-trip, she’d likely say, and doesn’t contribute to the plot as a whole.
I’m going to do some hard thinking about the words of that imaginary editor. Chapter 43 may very well end up on the Outtakes page, its only value being in the practice I got in doing the research.
But before I do anything so precipitate, I’m going to consider what I was trying to accomplish with it and whether it’s useful in getting that done.
So, in the order they occur to me, here were my goals, and why:
Goal No. 1: I wanted to deepen the characterization of Sandy Beichten as a young woman who, while very cerebral, feels deeply and does not love lightly. She cannot say, “Oh, well, that boyfriend didn’t work out, on to the next!”
This trait will be important when things become difficult and even seem impossible between her and the hero, Eric Baumann.
Goal No. 2; I want to show her making emotional associations between her experiences and works of art and music.
Her getting past that– or not– with Eric will reveal much about who he is to her.
I suppose this means I should bring the Ninth Symphony in again later, which I hadn’t planned to do. I’ll keep it in mind.
Goal No. 3: I also wanted to develop her as someone who believes that with enough analysis and thought she can control her deep feelings so they do not disturb the intellectual façade she has created for herself.
When her feelings for Eric come out it will be spectacular, but she will need that intellectual censor due to the nature of their relationship.
Goal No. 4: I wanted to show how that façade begins to crack in the presence of her mother.
She will need to make real progress in getting over Werner before she goes off alone to Boston. Mom’s a good candidate for the role of confidante.
I think, though, that if– when– Sandy opens up to her mom the reader must see that she doesn’t plan to get into the habit of it. Will she talk to her about Eric when things get farther along with them? I haven’t yet decided.
Goal No. 5: I wanted to depict her as a Reformed Christian girl who at this stage hasn’t grasped the practical implications of salvation (and sanctification) through Christ alone by grace alone through faith alone. She accepts that in principle, but semi-consciously she still cherishes the conviction that she has to earn God’s love.
The overarching motif of the novel is Sandy’s and Eric’s spiritual development. By showing her beating herself up now the reader will understand how monumental it is when she finally accepts the principle of Grace. She has to learn that while God the Father trains and disciplines His children, He, in the words of Mike Horton, does not punish them. Internalizing this will enable her to do some things she has to do to bring the thriller plot to its climax.
Someday when the rewrite of this novel is done and I find me a beta reader or two or three, they can tell me if Chapter 43 accomplishes these goals and if it’s the place to accomplish them. Till then, or until I make some radical decision otherwise, I’ll leave the previous post where it is.