Updated: Sep 1
Works in Progress
Lately, I’ve been finding it challenging to write what I want to write.
I’ve been wanting to write about 1919/1920 America, about community, race riots, inequality, terror, legacies. I write about the past to make sense of the present.
Maybe I’m finding it hard to write historical fiction because it feels like we're living it. On one hand, the things we are seeing today are parallel to the past. Past pandemics, past structures, past lessons, past terrors. I’m struck by how little we seem to have learned from it all.
I had planned to be writing my second novel, a historical fiction. I was getting to know the characters, their routines, and fears, their motivations. I was getting a feel for their world. Then, characters started dying. Who killed them? What or who do they want? Who's next? Everyone is a suspect. I can't trust the world they are peopling. What they are capable of is frightening.
The place is haunting. Maybe it's been haunting me for a while. A year or so ago I wrote a flash fiction piece about a place called Curdle Creek. It's a rural town that seems to be stuck in the past. It's a close-knit community. Like most places, the town has a deadly secret.
I write to find out what it is.
The story I need to write right now started out as a question. What would it be like if Shirley Jackson's The Lottery was set today? What might change? Why would people move there? Why would they stay? What would it take for them to leave? Who would want to stop them? I've been thinking about this for a few years now. I keep returning to Curdle Creek.
I thought I had satisfied my curiosity. Gotten it out of my system. Stopped thinking about the cost we all pay for the price we or some of us live.
The pandemic brings things to perspective. The questions come rushing back. What secrets is this town hiding? What is it willing to do to hold on to its way of life? The people of Curdle Creek hold on to traditions. They don't know why but things have always been this way. They resist change.
There's a cost to live where they live. What happens if one of them refuses to pay? What will it take for them all to stand up? How many people will they sacrifice for the good of the town? Writing this lets me think of the world around us. The costs we pay for the society we live in. The cost we pay for the society we are outside of.
What will it take for everyone to stand up?
I write to find out.