I didn’t intentionally set out to write a new novel addressing the rampant intolerance, Islamophobia, and racism in America today. I really didn’t.
My novels always start with a character, or characters. Sometimes their actions get pretty hectic right out of the gate; other times, there’s more of a slow burn. But character is first and foremost, and I’ve even written a blog post on that subject. I’ll start new projects with snippets of dialogue, or interior monologue, belonging to an as-yet-undefined character.
Such was the genesis of my latest WIP—that’s Work-in-Progress for all you non-writers out there—a novel tentatively titled Jihad Insurance. Before I had a title or even a theme, I had J. Edgar Schnatz, an obnoxious, fully-realized Hollywood director with a potty mouth and a truckload of politically incorrect opinions. In fact, I might more accurately say he had me. Well, he had my attention anyway.
It’s Still Annoying to Use the Word Zeitgeist, Right?
Okay, I won’t start this section off with it, but something in the air right now must have influenced me to move forward with Jihad Insurance and J. Edgar’s unholy adventures. It’s ironic, too: prior to delving into the first and second chapters of the manuscript, I didn’t even have an opening. On the other hand, I had over twenty pages of a historical novel that’s like nothing I’ve ever done before. Somehow, that book would have to wait.
One of the weirdest things about writing a blog post discussing a WIP is I haven’t discussed it with anyone else. The only thing I’ve shared about this novel is some dialogue, which I read to an old college friend. (It’s hilarious…and yes, he laughed.) So I find myself in the awkward position of writing about something I don’t know much about, this developing novel.
Of course, I’ve mapped out a general plot line, and I’ve created some character sketches of people whose roles I don’t quite understand yet. I’m sure, as time goes on, more will be revealed. That’s the creative process.
Is One Theme Overarching?
I don’t have an answer to that question, although I have my suspicions. But I thought I’d throw it out there today as the theme to this week’s post—which is a day late, I know, owing to a little WordPress problem. And the question for you, the reader, is this: do you think one of our many cultural problems is most in need of being urgently addressed above the others?
Systemic racism, personal prejudices and bigotry, misogyny…these all play their parts in my upcoming novel. The trigger warning, if I were inclined to write such a thing, would be longer than most short stories. But is there one theme, above all others, you’d like to see addressed—no matter how painful it might be to read?
And there’s the rub, as it were. This novel is undoubtedly going to be filled with some of the ugliest human behavior around. Not physical violence, but violent language, rudeness, insensitivity to the sensibilities of any decent reader, really. That’s sort of the point. It’s satirical, and the characters’ bad behavior shows them in their truest, least flattering, light.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.