Summer NaNo: Novel Cook Pot, installment 1

Once you’re a writer, everything is a writing prompt.

This summer I’m going to do a NaNo novel. The formal challenge is to do a plot skeleton and play it in counterpoint against the character interview. The responses to the character interviews will be the first draft of the novel.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, here are the prompts:

From St. Oscar the Sarcastic, we have Basil Hallward, the painter of the Picture of Dorian Gray. (Spoiler alert) Basil dies in the course of the action, so we’re not going to use him. I have decided that he has a cousin, Leonie, who is a scenic painter or set designer in pre-WWI Greenwich Village.

From the biography of John Sloan, author of The Gist of Art and luminary of the Ash Can School, we are borrowing, well, the character of Mr. Sloan himself, as well as the Secession of Greenwich Village. (It took place atop the Washington Square arch, one night in the teens of the twentieth century. Incidentally, folks, this bit is nonfiction, which should Larn All of Y’All about the real reason that fiction writers, especially fantasy writers, should read history: it’s full of bizarro things that you couldn’t possibly make up on your own.)

Obviously, this story is going to take place in New York City, so we’re going to throw in that other Notable New Yorker, Mr. Henry James. Specifically, his Jolly Corner, as well as the artist’s models from The Real Thing. And it’s going to be POV the models, not the snooty artist type who uses them in a lecture-demonstration on Art Vs Life. OK, London goes into the mix as well, because the latter tale takes place in London. Whether the ghost of Mr James will condescend to appear, we don’t know.

Emma Goldman, just on general principles, and because her circle intersected with that of John Sloan and the fictional Leonie Hallward. Maybe Red Emma herself in person, or some fictional avatar. For sure, she’s going to put in an appearance in my New York/Petersburg/Mexico City steampunk extravaganza scheduled for this November, so we need to start practicing.

Incidentally, Leonie has a painter’s gift or curse similar to that of her cousin Basil. What does that look like, when one is a scenic designer?

This fiction clearly will inhabit the bedeviled no-man’s-land between historical fiction, magical realism, and fan-fiction. (The Snooty would point out that when the canon material is old enough, it’s not fanfic but hommage.)

If the fates favor me, I’m taking a trip to the East Coast this summer, which will include a side-trip to New York City. (Research! Tax-deductible fun!)

Maybe John Singer Sargent, too, because he didn’t die until the mid-1920s. And so now we have both New York and London in the mix. If we want some ghosts, we can just flip through an art-history book. Maybe Walt Whitman, though properly that might require a side-trip to Camden, New Jersey.

Oh yes, and there are the bones that underlie the great city of New York, including the slave-revolt organizers burned alive back in colonial days.

Yes, folks, you read that right. Burned alive.

Not to mention the original inhabitants who got done out of that island in the first place. I’m going to follow up on the actual story about the supposed selling of Manhattan Island. I suspect that the real story is rather different from the anecdotal version. Real-estate swindle, though, is the foundation of the American Way of Life, not to mention the bones in the foundation.

Can’t get away from those bones… and London has lots of ghosts too. The skeletons in London Bridge, just to start…

OK, that’s probably enough for the cook pot now. Time to let it simmer down.

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