Posted in Fourth Russian novel, Writing

Resurrecting a rejected storyline, Part III

I’m really embarrassed at what little advance, detailed planning I put into the title storyline of A Dream Deferred: Lyuba and Ivan at University. All the other storylines, including many which only organically arose during the writing process, came together so much more cohesively, with a clear direction and no sprawl.

To be fair, the Minnesota storylines were going fairly well in Part I, but everything took a drastic turn when Tamara was beaten into a coma by her second grade teacher and all but one of her classmates. That necessitated a move away from the fictional town of Melville and to the Twin Cities, and really forced the Konevs to rethink their views on small rural towns.

Skipping ahead to autumn 1951, suddenly almost the entire book became about the pressing need to relocate back to NYC. My original plan was for the Konevs to return to Firebird Fields upon Lyuba and Ivan’s graduation. Later I changed it to remaining in St. Paul. But as I got further and further into the story, and thought back on the first three books, it became more and more obvious to me where their true place had always been. It was just that none of us was willing or able to admit it before.

But instead of focusing on their growing realisation that they’ve outgrown Minnesota and are being called towards a fresh start in New York, and making the main conflict Ivan’s typically stubborn refusal that needs overcome, I drove the point into the ground with a whole slew of subplots making everything way more unnecessarily complicated.

We’ve already known since Dark Forest that Fedya and Novomira were very happy in New York and didn’t return to Minnesota voluntarily. Their oldest child Feliks was also very happily settled in his life there, and lived across the hall from his best friend Fernand. That should’ve been all the reason they needed to return.

There was no need to hasten along the reason for their return with a clunky subplot about Firebird Fields suddenly being an unincorporated community in danger of being annexed by Duluth, and threatened by the nascent Green Revolution to boot. (Long story short, the Green Revolution forced a lot of small farmers out of business because they couldn’t afford new-fangled equipment, more livestock, or more land. Other farmers were replaced by machines. In response, many people migrated to urban areas.)

It’s also compelling enough for Ivan to gradually come to admit, both to himself and everyone, what some of them long suspected, that he only latched onto the daydream of farming in the Midwest to escape from his abusive father instead of being genuinely drawn to this lifestyle and area. Yet I drove that into the ground too by having a long psychotherapy session with Andrey and his internship advisor. For the entire family plus Eliisabet and Aleksey, not just Ivan! And by this point, Ivan has already admitted it was a defence mechanism and that he associates big cities with problems after his experience in Russia and New York.

There’s a reason so many people have long moved to NYC, beyond romantic fantasies inspired by films and TV. Until fairly recently, there really were far more concentrations of opportunity there than in most other major U.S. cities. Sure there were great schools, museums, industries, jobs, and cultural institutions elsewhere. But the average person wasn’t content to move to Milwaukee or remain in Des Moines if s/he were serious about increased employment prospects, getting noticed and networking in a particular field, advancement opportunities, or just having a more exciting life. Many industries, like publishing, art, fashion, theatre, and music, were also based in the city. You kind of had to live there if you wanted a career in one of those fields.

It’s the same reason a lot of Brits move to London, French people move to Paris or other large cities like Lyon, and Japanese move to Tokyo. There’s just not nearly enough opportunity at home.

I was so out of control, I planned to burn down everyone’s houses so they’d be forced to move to New York! If a storyline is right, you don’t need to start inserting a whole bunch of complicated subplots making sure it comes true. I’m really embarrassed at the storyline about Ivan’s secretly dying father leaving his family and their friends almost $50 million in his will, which enables Lyuba and Ivan to move into a luxury penthouse or grand estate in St. Paul’s tony Summit Avenue neighbourhood. That was like something I would’ve concocted as a teenager!

Editing and rewriting this is going to be a nightmare, and I still have at least five chapters left to write!


Writer of historical fiction sagas and series, with elements of women's fiction, romance, and Bildungsroman. Born in the wrong generation on several fronts.

One thought on “Resurrecting a rejected storyline, Part III

  1. Hoping those final five chapters go well.

    [Knowing myself – and how I like to keep chapters short and fast-moving – it would be 10 and 15 chapters if I had been in the same situation].

    On another level: Glad to know that I wasn’t the only one to plan secret inheritances from characters.

    This does/did/was intended to show that Ivan’s dad was good at heart? And had a golden heart?

    [or more simply that he wanted to be a Good Provider in late life – or his peak earning years].

    [Probably no worse than any of the house lotteries in the Commonwealth of Nations for various charitable/social justice organisations – which do offer estates and apartments of this sort of thing].

    Oh – this is in Minnesota’s St Paul.

    It would have been a holocaust in a very literal sense – that plot of yours.

    [Very similar to all the boarding school floods and fires – I am surprised this never happened to any of your orphanages – though I am prepared to be wrong or at least surprised!]

    The beating of Tamara. Now she is the youngest next to Sonyechka.

    Family therapy can be good in its place and time.

    [had wanted to say something about the larger point in terms of French Classicism – time; place; situation and the UNITY involved].

    I did get a kick of seeing Andrey in practice.

    Still taking in the absence of Boris.

    ***He associates big cities with problems after his experience in Russia and in New York***.

    And there is the impression that NYC is very much a country on its own/of its own.

    There are not only 2 big cities in Russia – Moscow and St Petersburg [or whatever it is called post-War and before 1991].

    Yes – the three big cities in France are essentially Lyon and Marseilles [and much of Provence is half an hour away from Marseilles north, south, east and west] apart from Paris.

    The problem of unincorporated communities is an important one – but perhaps not A DREAM DEFERRED?

    [and if you were thinking of them being in California or a Pacific Northwest place – or indeed the Southeast – I wondered if any characters had been drawn to Florida; Georgia; Alabama or the Carolinas or Louisiana?]

    And Poles to Warsaw or Kraków or Łódź or Gdańsk [or whatever the Baltic Tricity is called this week – sorry Wikipedians! – Sopot and Gdynia] and Czechians to Prague and Estonians to their cities Tallinn and Turva.

    Des Moines is very much a literary city and that evolved in the 1960s and 1970s.

    [or maybe I am thinking of writers’ retreats and tertiary education opportunities].

    A good mate – David Perry – moved from Illinois to Minnesota.

    And there are abusive people in the Midwest too…


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