Maybe Dialogue Blog: Part III Focus … or “if I’ve read intently to page 4 of a story, what stops me?”

In “House of Refuge,” I read eagerly until about page 4, but by then multiple strands emerged that didn’t necessarily support or enrich each other. The story is of the shipwreck, the search for the captain, the wife’s struggle with crewmember August Fuhrman and with the Keeper’s wife, and the mystery of the water.
So my question for Mary was: Which plot strand did you wish to make paramount?

Mary Answers: I wanted to depict the struggle of a wife who (to please her husband) goes on a voyage with him only to have it end in tragedy…and I wanted to show her slow, unfolding realization of loss. So I guess in this case that would mean that “the mystery of the water” was paramount for me.

Julie responds –I wasn’t particularly engaged by the struggle with lascivious August but I kept wishing for more interaction between the protagonist and the Keeper’s wife, even a scene between the Keeper’s wife and August. The search for the captain or his body is a good narrative arc -as the days pass the wife must grow in acceptance and she resists.

Julie Asks: Did you cut out any scenes between the keeper’s wife and captain’s wife?

Mary Answers: No. But I like the idea of having more time in-scene with just the two of them.

Julie Asks: Have you thought about a scene between the keeper’s wife and August?

Mary Answers: That would be tricky to pull off in this case, because the story is told in first-person narration, so any scene would have to either include the narrator (which would defeat the purpose if you want to see August and the keeper’s wife alone) or depict her spying on them from some hidden space. Another reason I wouldn’t want to do that is because I felt it was important for the others not to see August’s advances toward the narrator, so that she would be viewed as hysterical or irrational when she brings it up. (I instill that at the beginning, too, with the mother’s line about her always having been a nervous child.)

So our discussion will conclude in a couple of days about the ending of the story. Any thoughts from our blog readers?