When the character won’t walk into the frame

by DRM

Old Porch Steps In Summer

Alex would stop by in the morning on the way to the shack where Nathan kept the two trucks down by the rail yard. Louis liked to wait for his cousin on the back step. He would watch Alex stepping up the street, at one moment firm and quick in his stride, then just as fast, shambling and erratic. There was something of his father’s walk in Alex, Louis thought, and when he sat on the wood step, his elbows pressed against his knees, he could feel his father inside him. Those moments brought back the fragments of memory, and if Louis just let them wash over, he was able to recover the sense of being a small boy and believing that things were going to be all right…

It’s such an odd thing when a novel stops on you.

65,857 words in and it just decides to take a pause. It’s like you’re riding an elephant and the big beast stopped in the middle of the path. The animal just needs to stop. Nothing you can do can make it move.

So there Louis sits on the back porch, waiting for his cousin Alex to walk up the road. Alex wants Louis to do a favor for someone, move some moonshine from one part of Desha County to the other, and that decision is going to get the two young men in trouble, just as the worst of the Depression sets in. Louis is going to have to leave behind a girl that he’s starting to love, and who might love him back. He”ll head east to Miami because he wants to see the ocean. That’s where he’ll meet Selma, and the die will be cast for the rest of his life.

When you write a novel it hangs at the dim edges of your mind and in idle moments impressions flit in and out like bats launching at dusk. They are beautiful and important but incredibly hard to see. You’ve got to be patient and wait.

I’ve been waiting for 18 days.

I had one of those impressions this morning while I stared out the window. I overheard a conversation between Louis and Selma. She was telling him about a friend of hers who had to sell all her furniture to keep her apartment. They are sitting in a garden in Miami while she describes how cold the empty apartment was. Her little dog is digging a flower bed. Louis has a fresh white shirt on. The air is cool and the sun is warm. He’s trying to imagine what the empty apartment in New York would look like. Selma’s excited and confident. They laugh.

This post is like a spirit prompt, an offering to the Novel God, to let her know that I’m still here and ready. She can let Alex come down the road. I’ll be honest with him and get him where he needs to go.