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!