reading tristram shandy, considering the idea of simultaneous digression and progression in the form, and trying to think through paragraphing in my currently limping book. I’ve been composing with the broadest formal conceit being to make a smooth– not fragmented– collage novel. Point being that as I live, I experience a bunch of narrative experiences simultaneously, but they don’t actually feel jarring or fragmented, they’re just a series & layers of things that may be bits but are just time moving, and that meaning/story happens in a way that is unexpected– I don’t know when something is going to crop up again or seem to be important and then not crop up again– I never know what thing is going to latch on to what other thing as it’s happening. So unless you have a consciously reflecting narrator, putting the story together for herself as for others as she lays it down (which is the most gentle and perhaps most common narrative stance, I suspect, in novel-writing) it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to have, for instance, paragraphs that point out the important things that are going to be good to highlight with your pen to write a paper on efficiently. So if I’m trying to write in large part to depict a sensibility, a way of being in the world that is my subject (the place where you are not mad, but in the realm of the mad, in a state of being conscious of madness in the world) and my focalizing character (and I haven’t even begun in this post to consider my 3rd person narrator in this) is in this state of trying to figure things out as her senses are going full blast, things will accumulate, resonate, and shift, but they will not “add up” in that mathematical way suggested by traditional paragraphing. For one thing. The other thing is my narrator– and it is usually the narrator who gets to make paragraphs that help a reader navigate a confused character– but I am not that kind of narrator. I am not the sort of narrator who knows what the characters can’t know. I’m closer to yet another person in that state when I am writing– and even when I am “done” and I “know” what “happened” the way I know is more like the way the characters know than the way I think I may be supposed to know in order to write the sort of novel that has paragraphs like that.
But I do know something. I may know the progression– in TS terms– and maybe that’s where the paragraphs can go, exactly when something I know comes around comes around. The digressions are where the more complicated truths are, always reaching beyond me. What is on the pages is meant to describe that motion.