The novel that I am collaborating on has the working title of “Eisenstrasse”, which means “Iron Street” in German. The name has a prosaic meaning–it’s the name of a location that figures prominently in the lives of the characters–but also helps to capture the feeling I have for the novel. The characters are living in a very artificial and inhospitable environment, East Berlin just after the Second World War, and it’s like trying to live on street made of iron, where there is nothing green or growing, nothing soft or comforting, just unyielding metal on all sides.
My co-author and I are writing in sections, sending a few pages at a time back and forth, and also writing from different perspectives. So far in five chapters we have four different points of view, and they are characters with very different backgrounds and perspectives.
It’s challenging, but it’s also very rewarding. I have to stop and think about how the world looks through each character’s eyes. It’s been making me deeply consider not just what each character is doing, but why. When I write from character A’s viewpoint, and I describe the actions of character B, I have in the back of my mind the idea that I’ll have to be able to write character B later on and those actions have to make sense from character B’s perspective.
I’m finding that it’s impacting my other work on Worms Of Heaven and in a good way. The main antagonist of Worms is called the Orchid, and I keep asking myself, “if I were to write the Orchid’s story, what would she say about what she has done and why?”
I think Worms is going to be stronger for it, actually.
Eisenstrasse is a big stretch for me, since pretty much everything I’ve written to date has been first person, one narrator telling his story. Writing in a much different style has changed the way I think about a lot of the conventions I use in my solo work.
How about you? Have you ever set out to write something that was very different from your usual work, and did you find that it changed the way you work?