Certainly I have been reeling since last hearing from my mentor: full of self-doubt, wondering if I should abandon the Lunatics project all together. What has kept me from crossing the brink is probably my “cheap gene”—I’ve paid good money for this course, I’m going get whatever I can from it, no matter how painful.
Reworking the manuscript, I’ve begun to rearrange all the chapters so that they are chronological. (I know! What a radical concept!) Before my mentor had pointed it out, I didn't realize just how much I had been skipping around in time and location.
Why have I done this, my mentor asks? It just confuses the reader.
Is it because I think this is how all modern novels are structured? Well, golly, maybe that is part of it—at any rate, I didn’t think I was doing anything unusual by arranging my scenes this way. Isn’t this how memory works? People remembering key moments from their past, not necessarily in order?
Of course, this is not how Jane Austen writes, my wife would remind me. Case closed.
All that being said, my mentor begins his comments with “I think this section overall works well.. it gives us a better grounding in Wernher’s personality and interest in rockets.”
Well, some relief in hearing that.
There is no doubt that my mentor regards Wernher von Braun as the protagonist of my story and, of course, he’s right. But I see now it’s as if I’ve hedged my bets, telling the story through other prominent voices as well—as if saying to the reader—well if you don’t like this character, maybe you’ll be able to identify with this other one.
My mentor goes no to say about the Wernher I’ve portrayed: “He seems to be a really good bloke if can use a Britishism. I wonder, is his essential goodness partly an overcompensating on your part for his links to Naziism? He comes across at times as almost saintly.”
My gosh! What an insightful and challenging comment! Is this again an example of me not committing all the way, of hedging my bets—yes, he’s a Nazi, but he’s actually a pretty nice guy! And does this reflect my underlying preference to avoid thinking the worst in people? Am I once again just trying to avoid conflict?