“Nice and easy does it every time”— Sixto Rodriguez
How do you write about a social gathering of any kind in a novel? It could be a meeting at work, a party with friends or even a traditional family get-together. It’s extremely hard, whether your character comes into a room or space after everyone else, or you write it from the heart of the group and work your way out. Why? Does it have anything to do with our own misgivings about mingling in larger groups? How about now, post pandemic, when many are still not comfortable with fully socializing, while others are rushing in with relief where they might have feared to tread pre-pandemic?
Trying to accurately describe the many layers of awareness, anxiety, insecurity, need, confidence, and curiosity that make up each person and how those gradations are hidden or revealed in a large social gathering is a challenge most writers find both exciting and daunting. Me, too. It’s a lot like writing music. The narrative line needs to be the main concern leading all other creative decisions, as is the case when writing a scene. Maybe my appreciation for the one voice comes from my childhood exposure to classical Broadway musicals of the 1950’s, which in turn sprang from the folk backgrounds of the WWII European immigrants who wrote them. That melodic line gave me a bias toward simplicity, a way to hear through the harmonies and complexities. I like that with socializing, too. Keep it simple. But some characters can get sidelined telling the story that way, and then the author must go back to bring them forward to the reader’s attention, much as a caring host would do at a party.
So how does the author accomplish that for a character who comes late to the event, as my protagonist Emily de Koningh does in my new book, a sequel to The Gilded Cage? And if the reader is focused on her as she enters the room, how will the other five people already there still contribute to the counterpoint without obliterating the protagonist’s vocal line? I should probably make my readers wait for the book to solve this dilemma, but I’d prefer to share it now because it comes full circle with a quandary we have today. Continue Reading