Conversation: Bridge of Birds
My all-time favorite trilogy took some time to obtain. The first was published in the year of my birth and went on the win the World Fantasy Award. It was the author’s first novel. Years later, it would take me three countries and four months to locate all three volumes for a complete set.
Some years after that, I found another complete set at a bookstore two blocks from my then-apartment. Go figure.
Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart has a long and storied history which I highly recommend perusing, but it is not the subject of my post today. The idea of having a conversation within a novel is not new. Normally, we call this dialog. Alternately, think of this conversation as demonstrating two versions of a topic you which to display in order to convey either the superiority of your point or to analyze many facets of the topic you are thinking about as you create.
There are a number of ways to discuss your topic in-depth. Plot and subplot are the most usual manner where the plot is the main point you wish to make and the subplot is the counterpoint played out in a smaller fashion or unsuccessfully so that your main point is the stronger contender in the reader’s mind. Think of a story where something is done twice in some scale. Odysseus is attacked by a cyclops and his men are ruthlessly murdered, after he and his men invaded the cyclops’s home. Some time later, Odysseus returns home and slaughters the strange men within. In the case of this story, the subject highlighted is perhaps when is a crime a crime, or when is an acceptable when performed by some person but not another?
In Bridge of Birds, the conversation revolves around love. Every storyline, every recurring minor character has something to say about love, though not always with words. Some are saying something about familial love, some about romantic love, some about faith which is another kind of love. What love can co-exist? What love is superior? Is any love more than another?
I would caution the writer not to assume that the conversation they put on the page is the only one the reader hears or sees. Additionally, art is accidental. Craft is purposeful. If someone sees something and you didn’t mean to put it there, a few tweaks that make it look purposeful might make you look real artistic. That someone could be a beta reader, or just your future self. Future me is one of the smartest people I know.