What I am starting to suspect about this novel is that the middle is actually the end. I’m jumping around in time anyway. I’m working with a strategy of staying out of one character’s head for as much as possible, without really knowing why I’m doing it. So the scene where we are in his head, which I thought belonged in the middle, might actually be the end, and it would give the book structure, if not plot, whatever plot is, and if I do it right there would be some degree of satisfactory revelation that would pay off as suspense, whether or not you were aware you were waiting to find this out, that when you do find it out things will click and make sense and feel something like satisfaction, whereas if I take a slightly more chronological cause-and-effect route I’m left not only with an absence of a driving motivation, I’m also absent an ending.
But not knowing the ending isn’t what’s been keeping me from writing. I’m afraid of trying to write Sally Nguyen, a Vietnamese-cum-Australian. I’m afraid of getting close enough to feel her mind at work because I don’t know enough about Vietnam or Australia. I barely even know what an American thinks of Australia. Until I invented her, I certainly never gave two thoughts towards what life might be like for an Asian immigrant family living in the north-northeast of Australia, whose son married an English-born immigrant of wealth and stature and ended up adopting an orphaned child involved in the Saigon Baby Lift. I mean, I didn’t even know there was a north-northeast Australia. Like, that there were actual towns and cities and people lived there. I guess I thought there was Sydney and there was Melbourne and in between was desert and everywhere else was Aborigines. Thanks, Crocodile Dundee.
Fortunately I know one Australian, who unfortunately lives relatively close to Sydney but fortunately takes an occasional trip up the eastern side of the continent and gives me a sense of what is going on, there. I know one Vietnamese-American, or knew him for a year before I split Virginia, and he wrote a lot about the Vietnamese experience in America but not a whole lot about Australia, by which I mean none. Fortunately he still posts regularly to Facebook, almost exclusively sharing some semi-obscure civil rights issue or some very obscure opinion on a well-known civil rights issue, about half of these about Asian-Americans, the other half about the oppression of any given demographic.
So, there’s two sources.
I think I’m afraid of trying to research this. Moreover I don’t know where to begin. Look up Vietnam in any library, you get 99% war stuff and 1% about Vietnam culture today, usually written by the whitest person in Utah whose only goal was to write a book about Vietnam that makes people aware it is actually a country, not just a conflict, and yes it still exists.
Really I don’t need much. I’m pretty close already to knowing who Sally is, but I need to figure out a little more about why she is who she is. So I can know if she would really do what I think she’s going to do, and why she wouldn’t do anything else, or if she would do something else I’d like to know what that is, please.
If she does go through with it, though, I also need to know how she does it, because I haven’t figured that out yet, and once I do that I should know whether that will be the ending or the ending is the middle.
And then it will be time to write.