My character, Evangeline, is about to arrive in 1855 Calcutta. I want to be able to describe this part of the novel in a very special way.
You see, I’ve got this complex with words. Words are my whole existence. I love words. But they also drive me absolutely crazy. Because it seems as though, no matter how good you get at using them, there are still some things you cannot describe. I believe that’s why God created music, I love music, but that’s a topic for a different time.
In the last couple of years, my writing has changed dramatically. It’s gotten stronger, more stable. When I compare my writing now with my writing from a few years ago, I just feel as if it has become more substantial. All that being said, there is still this place that I want to get to in my writing that I feel I’m barely scraping the surface of. Every writer has this problem, I know, and I’m still very young and everything. But nevertheless, I’ve been writing stories since I was six years old, so shouldn’t I be further along or something?
I think one of the reasons that this part of the novel is so hard for me to write (I’ve rewritten her entrance into the city and the immediate events thereafter, not to mention the events before, probably 10 times) is because of how I’ve decided to research this project.
I am a history student, yes, let’s just get that out there. I love to research history and learn more about it. The problem that comes up in research is that research only gets you so far. It’s not as though Google Maps can give me street views of 1855 Calcutta. Because I’m not in a position to just go off to India on a research trip, I’ve decided to take a different route with this novel. I’ve done a lot of research, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve decided not to focus too much on the historical accuracy.
Before all of you who write historical fiction start to weep for my soul, let me explain. It isn’t that I don’t want this to be accurate, not in the least. I’d love it if it could be the most accurate novel in existence. However, the purpose of this work isn’t to lay out 1855 India in every single detail. The purpose is to communicate several different messages and lessons, things that the character learns. So rather than write such details as which street they turned down or which historical figures they interacted with, I’d rather focus on Evangeline’s passion for India and how being there has freed her from some very real struggles.
I know that if I continue chipping away at this, I’ll get it. And it’s going to be beautiful. I had this incredible discovery last night as I was thinking about this problem right before I fell asleep.
Michelangelo once said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
I have always, always loved this quote. It has inspired me for many years. But last night, it hit me like a bolt of lightning that as a writer, I am very much like this sculptor Michelangelo is talking about. I have a block of material (personally, I choose marble), and I see the writer that I want to be inside of it.
The challenge is not getting over this writer’s block, it is finding the writer in the block. And it applies not only on a personal level, but on the level of my characters as well. Research aside, how does Evangeline feel about Calcutta? What are her thoughts? Where is Evangeline in this block, and how to I set her free?