I’ve been writing a novel(la). It’s slow going – a paragraph here, a page there. It’s a disjointed, discombobulated mess right now, years from being editable, yet alone done. It doesn’t even have a proper title yet. Right now, I simply refer to it as #muse. (Yes, I have a hashtag problem.)
It’s not often that I talk about my leisure writing, but it has come up in conversation a few times in the past month. More often than usual, at least. And, of course, I am always asked “what’s it about?”
Every time, I’ve skirted the question. Don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at avoiding topics I don’t want to talk about.
My friend Nate wrote a really great post about the question “What is it about?” a while back. I reread it… and it got my mind to thinking.
What is it about, anyway?
I think a story is about more than its plot, because “what’s the plot?” is a much easier question to answer. The plot of #muse is this: through a post-modern narrative that follows the protagonist as she criss-crosses the globe, a young woman explores in retrospect a failed relationship and grapples with the love (and life) that remains.
But… that seems so… lame. Plots are pretty drab; they’re just a string of point A to point B all the way to Z.
Put this way, plot is just the what happens.
But that doesn’t answer what the story is about. The about is more abstract and ephemeral. It’s the reason the writer is sweating over the damn thing in the first place. I think the fancy academic term for this is “theme,” but I’m not sure. Maybe the about is the story’s Platonic form… The highest ideal it is born to reach.
So, what’s #muse about?
It’s a kind of Pygmalion myth in reverse. It is about how distance and time turns the people we once knew and loved into statues. It’s about how we are able to keep loving something that no longer qualifies as real. It’s about realizing this, and doing something about it.