It’s time again for The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which meets the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles. This month’s question is:
Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?
I previously discussed my own “I am not Aeneas, I am not Paul” moment while writing my current WIP, my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice. Who am I to deign to be so chutzpahdik as to not only write about one of the greatest writers in history and one of my literary idols, but also in his own first-person voice?
It’s beyond rare for me to write an entire book in first-person. My natural POV is the classic default of third-person omniscient, though I’ve always enjoyed short first-person interludes like letters, op-eds, love notes, and journal entries. Yet this was the only POV that felt right for this story, since Dante wrote all of his works, particularly the big two, in first-person. Third-person would feel too distant.
I got the idea for this project in 2004, and finally came up with actual storylines and an overall plot trajectory in 2021 (as opposed to my original vague concept). This wasn’t something I could easily abandon. And when your characters tell you to do something, esp. when they were real people, it kind of behooves you to listen to them!
I recently had to take another step back from my WIP and regroup while I figured out how best to correct an omission and proceed from there. It’s like when a figure skater has to go to the referee because something went awry, and then can start the program all over again, continue from the point of the interruption, or leave the ice entirely. I’d also compare it to a skater who realizes s/he’s off-kilter in the air but nevertheless fights for even a shaky, two-footed landing with a hand on the ice instead of just giving up and splaying across the ice in an ugly fall.
As I came to discover from my research, Dante had two sisters, not just his much-younger halfsister Gaetana (Tana), to whom he was very close. What confused me was the conflicting information. Some scholars say she was also a halfsister, though most have reason to believe she was Dante’s full sister.
Sadly, we don’t know her name, but we do know her husband’s name, Leone de Poggi, and the name of at least one of her children, a son named Andrea who was said to very much resemble Dante. Basic deductive reasoning says she was probably his older sister.
I couldn’t decide if I should keep him an only child till his father’s remarriage, have his sister already married and living in another part of town, make her a victim of childhood mortality who already died before the story began, or suck it up and create this new character. And if I did make a new character, should she be older or younger?
I’m now going back through my WIP and adding her in where necessary. Thankfully, I didn’t get too far into the story, and she doesn’t need to be in most of the scenes. I named her Antonia and decided to make her best friends with Beatrice’s older sister Ravignana. I’m also going to give both her and Ravignana entirely fictional husbands of their own choosing.
You obviously have some leeway when writing alternative history, but you still need to stay true to as many basic facts as possible. The story won’t feel believable if you alter everything and leave out important real people.
Have you ever made a mistake or changed your mind about something while writing? How did you fix it?