Aspects of a Novel
photo by Ken Cheung

Aspects of a Novel


Or, Why What Happens Next

Some years ago, back when this was a diabetes blog, I mentioned a particular fondness for a quote by the British writer E.M. Forster. The quote— How Can I Tell What I Think Till I See What I Say—comes from his book on writing, Aspects of the Novel, which he published in 1927, and serves up the argument that novels must offer not only an arranged set of time-sensitive, narrative events that answer the question “What happens next?” but also add value by raising the possibility of “Why?”

At the time, I wasn’t writing fiction, but about real life, how diabetes was impacting us as a family, and so I wasn’t interested in just sharing stories of what happened next and so on and so forth, but to find deeper meaning in those stories by rooting out their cause and effect. Why did one a.m. mean so much to us? Because diabetes requires 24hr vigilance. Why does one write a play staring a pancreas? Because you’d do anything to convince yourself that everything is fine.

In following the mantra, “How can I tell what I think till I see what I say,” I allowed myself an above the surface, and publicly shared, exploration of a real life event as told from my most hidden, inner self. It’s a tactic that worked well for an online journal, but in writing a novel?

Forster would say, Not a chance.

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