… A little literary navel-gazing today.
I’m making some adjustments to Strangers, but also trying to figure out the answers to some writing questions.
Specifically, Toby and Phinny are co-protagonists, and it’s clear to me what Toby is after, as a character: he really wants to understand a dark, painful, and muddled period in his past so he can, like, move on with his life or something (okay, yeah, that sounds pretty vague). He also wants Phinny.
Phinny continues to be a bit of a problem child: I don’t know exactly what he wants in the story. To an extent, I suppose he wants to avoid the exact confrontation with his past (that is, his and Toby’s mutual past) that Toby wants and needs, but that avoidance thing serves Toby’s story better than it serves Phinny’s. Likewise, he is attracted and even a bit drawn to Toby, but not with the singularity of intention that draws Toby to him.
Beyond that, he is mostly a guy who has what he wants in the world: he’s spent his life preparing to become a dancer and has done so with no small success; he has grown up in a loving-if-somewhat-distracted family and maintains a good relationship with his parents and his kajillion brothers and sisters; he has good friends within his company; he likes traveling and as such enjoys the fact that I Travesti spends most of the year touring. He certainly wants love in the romantic sense, but I don’t think he feels any pressure about it — he is focused, instead, on dancing.
This doesn’t mean he’s a well-adjusted “whole person” — he absolutely isn’t, and in some ways he has constructed his entire so he never needs to deal with the trauma of his past. He never stays in any one place very long; he lives a secure, cloistered life in which he is almost never alone with his thoughts, let alone with a potential romantic partner; his relationship with Peter is at once primary, quasi-romantic, and asexual (Peter is basically the straightest man who has ever made a living by performing classical ballet in drag); he is at once aware of his own desirability and protected from its consequences by the people around him.
So getting to grips with his own past is a thing Phinny needs to do (or will, someday, need to do), but also a thing he feels no pressure to do, as he has carefully crafted a life that prevents situations in which he might feel said pressure.
Likewise, he doesn’t suffer from Toby’s central problem, which is a nagging guilt. Toby’s as driven by a need for absolution as he is by a need to understand what the frack actually happened; they are faces of the same coin. Phinny’s damage is more abstract (possibly because, ironically enough, the Bad Things in his history are more concrete — though also because he avoids it all so effectively).
So there’s that question: What is Phinny after, if he isn’t just a passive vehicle in this story? And, of course, does he reach whatever his goal is?
None of these difficulties get in the way of actual writing, of course — I’m a “Write first, ask questions later” kind of guy — but they will, sooner or later, come to bear on the novel as a whole.
Since I’m Taking A Couple of Days Off, I plan to spend a bit of time with Toby and Phinny and see what comes of it.
In other news, this injury means keeping work in turn-out to a minimum for a bit, and my inner Ballet Wonk is busy throwing a fit about that. I mean, in the long run, it’s important — the muscle I’ve managed to injure (which was secondary to the Groin Pull of Doom) is one of the major turnout muscles, and if I want to keep my turnout in the long run, I need to let it heal. But FFS, how do you ballet when you can’t turnout? Bleh.
(Yeah, I know — #FirstWorldBalletProblems)
I have also decided that I need to educate myself on how to manage minor injuries so I don’t turn them into major ones. Abnormal pain perception has its advantages, but it also has its disadvantages, and this is one. Things don’t always hurt when they should (especially once my muscles are warm), so I wind up exacerbating injuries or adding new ones.
The groin pull wouldn’t have been a terribly big deal by itself, but I wound up injuring another muscle because of the way muscles compensate for one-another, and that’s the kind of thing I need to learn to avoid.
On the upside, I managed to prevent myself from sleeping in a face-down turned-out left retiré (seriously, I sleep that way most of the time, or in the butterfly/frog position — I mentioned this to B, and she said, “No wonder your turnout is so good!”), so I at least woke up far less sore than I have been.
Anyway, onward and upward, what what.