Though A Dream Deferred remains on hiatus, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the aborted storyline of the Konevs relocating en masse back to NYC. Yes, it’s usually a bad trope when the entire cast, or a good portion of it, up and moves together. However, looking back over the posts I wrote about this matter in 2020, I was reminded of all the compelling reasons I hit upon this storyline. It spiralled out of control and never came together properly because I didn’t plot it well, not because it was inherently a bad idea.
The redirections I came up with to replace it also sound really good on paper, but they just don’t seem authentic, and would create even more complications in a manuscript that’s already sprawled well beyond my conservative initial guesstimate. The end of a book, even in a continuing series, isn’t the time to start introducing 12+ important new characters or moving people to an entirely new location!
Many of the other storylines in Dream Deferred weren’t part of my original notes either, but they all naturally fit right into the overall story, with beginnings, complications, and resolutions, and are well-incorporated with the stories of the other characters. I thought the storyline about the Konevs and their friends returning to NYC had to be a mistake because I could never decide on the details, as though I were helpless against taking some time out to think through all the possible residences, neighborhoods, and schools BEFORE going any further.
Instead, that sprawling hot mess of a storyline is enough to give anyone major whiplash. I changed so many things over and over, often abandoning them in media res. Apartments are so superior to houses! No one wants to live in an apartment! Townhouses are awesome! Townhouses have too many stairs to constantly go up and down! Everyone wants a yard! Kids don’t need a yard when they can go to the parks! New York is the best city ever! Minnesota is so inferior! New York is too crowded! Minnesota has good schools and museums too! We’re moving back to New York! We can’t decide! We’re staying in Minnesota!
I was also guilty of applying presentism to a story set in the early 1950s. While I still feel NYC is a lazy default setting, its overuse in books and films isn’t without merit. The city has an incredible energy, and it’s gut-loaded with world-class schools and museums. In 1952, given the choice between Minnesota’s Twin Cities and NYC, of course a family would choose NYC if they wanted top-notch academic and artistic opportunities.
It makes sense for Nikolas to want to stay in NY after Katrin’s retrial and open a progressive law firm in the tradition of Clarence Darrow, and for his son Andrey to complete his Ph.D. there and join a new psychotherapy practice helping Shoah survivors. While San Francisco did have many survivors, there were a whole lot more in NY.
Plus, the Konevs have so many relatives and friends there, characters I won’t need to introduce and start developing at the end of the book. Ivan wants to be close to his aunt and uncle in their autumn years, and Lyuba wants to be near her mother, stepfather, and stepsisters again. It’s inconvenient for them to constantly travel 1,000 miles and stay with relatives for family celebrations like weddings, graduations, and baptisms.
I ended up barely using the Novak-Kolarov family in any significant way after Part I, and with the radical exception of Léa, the Kahns likewise didn’t become the major secondary characters I envisioned them as. The Novak-Kolarovs also have lots of family in St. Paul, and the Kahns aren’t eager to resettle yet again. Thus, there’s no reason for them to come along for this move.
Fedya and Novomira built a life and a circle of friends in NYC while they were in school, and only returned to Minnesota out of expectation and duty. They didn’t want to leave. Fedya also misses being near his Army buddies, just like Darya misses the three friends she survived the Shoah with.
And while there were already subtle signs of the city’s decline by 1952, it weren’t as though massive urban decay and a high crime rate erupted overnight. NYC still had a great quality of life through the 1950s, and into the early 1960s as well. Many people stayed instead of hightailing it to suburbia.
When I finally resume Dream Deferred, I’ll have a lot of things to think about. Maybe Lyuba and Ivan really will choose to remain in St. Paul, but that has to be a well-thought-out decision, not a defeatist retreat to my original idea after everything else failed due to poor plotting.