This is an expansion of the latest (today) journal entry for Penitents. It’s coming along, even though I still have no idea whether I’ll actually write it. Or anything else.
The notes and questions are accumulating, and I’ve even scribbled some text fragments. I have a much better idea of my central character, some secondary characters, a sense of where this story might go.
The character—Grayson— is still central, but I haven’t had much of a sense of what his world is like—until just now. It’s the same world that Camp Expendable is set in. Maybe even the same as A Well-Educated Boy. Though Well-Ed is probably set somewhat earlier, before the country is in near-total collapse.
So it might be interesting to find ways in which to link the stories, showing that they’re all outcomes of an ongoing process of social, economic, and environmental fragmentation and decay. Part of that would be setting actual dates for the action of each story so that (assuming I write them all–hah hah) they can be read in chronological order. Maybe giving characters from one story small roles in another, though that’s probably too much of a stretch.
Still a major concern is my reluctance to start a large project. If I’m going to write it at all, I want to keep it to novella length, and that’s looking less and less possible. Each new character adds complications and length if they’re to be more than cardboard cutouts.
Here’s a bit that’s more or less the way I want it. Grayson is trying to explain to Lydia why he wants to do a one-week guest retreat with the brotherhood.
“What have you ever done that you need to do penance for? You’re just an ordinary person, like the rest of us. You’re not doing any of the horrible things that messed up the world.”
He opened his mouth to answer and knew that if he didn’t pay attention, he would stumble over his tongue as he usually did when Lydia put him on the spot. It was too much: get the words out properly and make sure they’re words that say what he meant to say. “It isn’t me, Lydia.” He stopped. Not him. That would make it even crazier in her eyes, wouldn’t it? “Okay, it is, a little bit, just because I’m living — eating, eliminating, using up resources…”
“So am I,” she broke in. “So I’m guilty too? Do you want me to share your poverty to make up for… Oh, I don’t know. Whatever.” She waved her hands in angry frustration.
“It’s a brotherhood. They don’t take women.” The second the last word was out of his mouth, he knew it was absolutely the wrong thing to say. He’d jumped off the track–again.
“I don’t care about that! It isn’t the point, Gray.” She sprang up from the couch, banging her shin on the coffee table. “Do whatever you want. I’m not going to argue with you about it. If we’re lucky, you’ll realize it’s just another one of your obsessions and it will burn out by the time you get back. So go! Sleep on the ground naked and eat grass, or whatever it is they do to demonstrate how we should all be living to make up for… for being alive, for heaven’s sake!”