giants continued...

so i've been working sporadically on my novel, giants. the second half of the novel is turning out to be really interesting. as mentioned in earlier posts, i had wanted the second half to be almost like a break from the book, to change things up, to have a completely different mood and style to it. well, it's definitely a change up, considering my decision to have about 70% of the second half of the novel not have any dialogue. the first half of the novel was very political, with the second half being more of a travelogue / cult deprogramming drama.

i'm finding it surprisingly hard to write so much prose without any dialogue. dialogue is easy; you keep mental notes of things people say, of conversations you have in real life with your friends and family and you sort of use it if it is interesting or relevant. a good chunk of dialogue i write is made up, but a good chunk is also taken from conversations with friends. the more interesting the friend, the more radical the conversation, the better. unfortunately most of my friends are boring, so there's that set back.

a friend of mine came back from working in china for a brief two week vacation over the christmas holidays, and we got together and had some interesting conversations. out of all my friends, he is the most interesting as far as character studies go. i had originally based the character of noah from desert sessions on him, and he's such an interesting guy, that everything he says is fodder for future characters. he'd say the most outlandish, crude stuff too, sometimes borderline racist. he'd say things like, "fuck kung-fu, man, the chinese can't fight for shit" and "the afternoon that my girlfriend left on the plane, i picked up this girl and fucked her. i just had to get it out of my system. it was violent. she was walking like john wayne when i was done with her" or my favorite comment of the night, "it's like down syndrome in a pill."

at any rate, not having dialogue is quite a challenge. i had tried to pull this off with my last novel, this is hardcore, but i couldn't quite do it. the problem there, was that i had characters that needed to talk to each other; they were on the run, so they needed to plan, to discuss, to argue. plus, they had kidnapped someone so they needed to explain that away. there was just no logical way around any of it. with giants, i have two characters that don't need to do that. in fact, if one of them died, the other would probably never know it. they're both too preoccupied with what they're trying to make of their lives. one is trying to find meaning, while the other thinks he's found meaning in his life and he's chasing after it.

a major problem when you don't have dialogue is that human connection and communication is done primarily through language. but i've always been interested more in people's actions rather than their words. people can say all they want, but it's their actions that matter. and sometimes, i think language gets in the way of real communication. there's a truth to action that is sort of lost on language.

all this has forced me to stretch my writing, and by stretch, i don't mean to grasp at straws, but more in terms of reaching for new ideas, new methods, etc. the end result, i think, is a dramatically different mood and pace to the second half of the book. the first half is so front-loaded with action and dialogue, that it almost seems like a completely different book. the characters are the same, but the setting and mood are so different.

the characters have changed quite a bit for the second half of the novel. one character in particular, sean, changes a great deal. she was based on a girl i knew, but i hadn't spoken to her in months, so in writing the character, it's almost like i don't know the character anymore, which i suppose mirrors my real life interactions with this girl whom i had considered my muse for this novel. there's a disconnected feeling which actually helps the novel, and i'm glad to feed off the uncomfortable nature of real life. it's interesting how at one time you can feel so much for someone, then later on you can barely remember what they look like. it's a shame, really, and that's what part of the second half of giants explores: how important is that person to you? what worth is one life? can you give a shit? does any of it matter in the end?

the second half changes don't come as a shock though. i don't all of a sudden cut the novel up: instead, it's more of a slow conversion from the first half to the second, so hopefully by the time you get halfway through the second half of the book, you don't realize the change has happened and by the end of the book, the first half seems like a distant memory. the hope is that the reader gets the same experience the characters do, as they change and progress (in some instances, regress), and by the end of everything, what happened in the past, seems irrelevant.

i've also been trying to write more naturally, and by that, i mean letting my thoughts flow, not worrying about plot holes or whether it even makes sense for a specific character to do something. i've been going for more of a stream of consciousness type of writing that jack kerouac used to do, with less plotting and more feeling, considering the first half is so meticulously planned out. i haven't been able to sit down at long lengths, but when i have been able to let my thoughts out, the writing has been interesting. so far, it has been for a few hours every week, which is nowhere near what my past production has been, but i'm not forcing anything.

finally, i just wanted to talk about what the title means. giants represents everything that is larger than life, of accomplishing something, of making yourself bigger, larger, beyond the confines of your physical self. it's about doing something great, important, relevant. i mean, all of us at one point or another believed we were destined for bigger and better things. that is, before life sort of beat if out of you. but still, there are those among us who still cling to that dream. giants is ultimately about two men, who accomplish what others only dream about. above and beyond the bullshit of politics and life... essentially, they become giants.

all in all, it's hard to look at giants and not feel a pang of bitterness. mostly because it's been so tiresome trying to get my ideas out, and also because the bulk of it was written during the last year, which has been one of the worst years on record for me for a variety of reasons. it's been hard to keep the optimistic outlook of the novel. there's been a lot of temptation to just revert to past behavior and write a completely black ending. but then, that would be the easy way out, wouldn't it? in the end, there will be something bitter sweet about this novel. but i suppose all good art tends to come from suffering of some sort.