Rising dough. Paying off a student loan. On hold with your insurance provider.
These are things that take time.
But what about the timeline for a novel? Does that have a built-in life expectancy?
For LITTLE GALE GUMBO, I took my time. Almost forty years, to be exact. When we first meet Camille Bergeron, she is a shy teenager helping her mother work a spell in the back of their Voodoo shop in New Orleans. By the story’s end, she has left a legacy on an island off the coast of Maine, started a Creole cafe that will become an island staple, and raised two remarkable daughters who share their own struggles and celebrations throughout the course of the novel.
So when I sat down to write my next novel, it was hard to imagine, but I was feeling a little less, well, patient. The story that was coming to me wanted to be told faster. MUCH faster. As in, one week faster.
Is that possible? Is that blasphemy? Can a reader care about people who have the literary lifespan of a fruit fly?
Why not? Just because a story takes place over a short period of time doesn’t mean its characters can’t develop believable relationships, does it? Admittedly, it’s a challenge. In particular, building romances. No reader accepts the love-at-first-sight clause without proof. And what about the ending? Can you provide resolution for your reader–believable resolution–when only a matter of days have transpired? I mean, how much can a character REALLY grow in seven days?
Well, I’ll let you know. I’m finding that out right now, and I’m here to say, I think they can grow quite a lot. But I am holding fast to one rule: Be it seven days or seven years, the evolution of a character requires consistency and authenticity above all else.
Frankly, I’m loving the challenge of this structure. I love the idea of a compact story with bursting characters whose years of history aren’t nearly as crucial as the seven days in which that history comes to the forefront and collides with their future and those around them who hope to be a part of it.
It’s almost like accelerated dog years. For every seven years of character development, I get one day to let it live.
So what about you all? Do you find it’s easier to write a story that spans a long chronology–or do you prefer to keep your timeline short? Any examples come to mind of short-termed storylines that left you feeling full or midnight-munchies starving?