Writer as Architect

While other little girls were jumping rope or playing with paper dolls, I was drawing house plans. My grandfather was, among other things, a building inspector, and I happily tagged along while he inspected new construction in our small town. If I had been born later in the century, I might have said that I wanted to be an architect, but no one took my interest seriously and I was left to choose between teaching English or nursing. I’ve done both, but deep down I still long to wrestle with big designs. The closest I have ever come to real architecture was to write a newspaper article about Buckminster Fuller, my secret hero. I am fascinated by the tiny-house movement. I live in an apartment of my own design.

Now there is the architecture of a novel challenging me. I have to provide a living structure for my characters, not just a house but several and a city to contain them. My people need roads, offices, and houses with kitchens and bedrooms and good plumbing. They need furniture, doors and windows. They need everything. I’m doing architecture on a grand scale, what would be a planned community if I weren’t dealing with the city of Providence, RI. It’s already there and I have to fit my creations into what exists. Grandad never had such a challenge.

Beyond the world building, I’m wrestling with the structure of the novel itself. What comes first, next, last? Does the story have a strong foundation and enough space to move around in? Will the finish work complement the framing and will the walls hold out the weather? The greatest and worst part of this design is that I’m the only one doing the work. I’m metaphorically hanging sheetrock and painting trim. I can only hope that when I’m done and the “For Sale” sign goes up, someone will buy it.

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