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For a detailed premise of the novel, please visit the novel’s main page here.
Progress Report 1:
As of now I’m seven chapters deep with 70 or so pages completed. This first part follows Robbie driving with DeJon Heyward from Colorado Springs in the ASA to the outskirts of Houston in the KCR. Since they’re driving though Kansas and Oklahoma with not much to see, much of the story so far is conversations between Robbie and DeJon. Some notable topics they’ve covered so far is their respective back stories, the need of being aware of prejudices (Robbie must wait at a de jure all-Black “ward” before he can get transferred into his suburban hometown), not believing in everything one hears, some backstory about the second civil war, and now an upcoming conversation about what really counts as courage.
I’ve been writing 2-3 pages (on average, some days are better than others…) every weekday since early April, a couple of weeks after our shut down here in Washington state. The first twenty pages were easy since that first chunk had been written and edited back in late 2017 when I applied for UW’s creative writing program. And just like 99.5% of people who apply to creative writing programs, I got rejected. The COVID shutdown has given me plenty of time to devote to writing again, but after writing diligently for a couple of months I had to give the novel a rest. The Floyd BLM protests sprang up all over the country, and I felt that my efforts toward the novel would be better placed toward other projects in support of BLM. I started Social Justice/Anti-Racist Guides as a project that serves social justice in the now because Vultures, while it is a novel based in social justice, is a long term project with an unknown completion date.
The break over the past month from the novel has been needed. I feel like I’ll be able to return to it with fresh eyes and renewed energy. I won’t be hitting it every weekday anymore, but more like once or twice a week with more focus to get 5-6 pages completed in a sitting. Having other projects like SJ/AR Guides and other content here on Faded Harbor to do during the week should prevent another burnout from happening. I feel it’s odd having a bunch of things going on at once as a form of sustainment, but whatever works…
Anyway, here are some other pending items of concern I have toward the Vultures:
–I have Robbie describing a scene where the KCR comes into his neighborhood. I’m worried his descriptions of the scene are not described in his language but in a style that’s closer to the narration.
–This talk about what courage really is needs to be the last in the series of topics covered by DeJon and Robbie. I need to introduce some action and conflict into the plot again.
And here’s an ongoing dilemma I’ve had with the novel’s premise that I could really use some feedback/input on:
The novel revolves around Robbie learning from oppressed communities their struggles for human rights and freedom. I’ve chosen the Black, LGBTQ, and women’s community to highlight in the novel. The sticky part for me involves taking researched histories, insights, and goals from these communities and sticking them into fictional characters of my creation. By doing this I feel I may be appropriating the struggles of oppressed communities, especially if Vultures happens to get published and take off. Like, who the hell am I as a straight cisgender white man to write characters who express their pain and struggle to Robbie when I never have and never will live those experiences?
On the flip side, this novel is ultimately about a young white man and the decisions he must make as to whether he will join and serve the Power or if he rejects the Power and works toward dismantling the oppressive state so his new friends get the human rights they deserve. While the supporting characters are from oppressed communities, I’m not making them the characters the narration follows because ultimately their stories of pain and struggle are not mine to tell (but I am telling bits and pieces of it when Robbie interacts with them because these are stories Robbie must hear in order to even consider rejecting Power, and in that sense these stories are necessary). I can only really tell a story that’s about the conflict a young white man faces when choosing between the Power or the human rights of others.
It feels like a good old-fashioned paradox. If I continue on this path I feel like I do run the risk of appropriation, but not including these stories of pain and struggle leaves this novel feeling inauthentic. This is why I’d really like some feedback, especially from people who have lived through oppression. Please let me know your thoughts and feelings, I greatly appreciate it!