Let me explain.
I created Father Francis to provide an insider’s view of Clinton from an outsider’s perspective. Who better than a priest to know everything that’s going on without actually being involved. He was my fly on the wall.
But as I started writing, I became enthralled with him. My narrative shifted from his observations to mine on who the man is. His family, his early years as a priest and his mentor – all in there. As he came alive, I found out how he had changed in the 20 years between his first and second assignments to the parish. There was only one small problem. Most of this had nothing to do with the story. So, after a gentle nudge from a colleague, I cut Father Francis down to size.
I moved him from the first chapter to the second. But he didn’t fit there. So, I moved him to the third. Then the fourth. I pushed him to the fifth, then the sixth chapter. Not only did he not fit into the town, he didn’t fit into the book, at least not so far.
So, here I am on chapter seven, and Father Francis finally is ready for prime time. However, the priest is a shadow of his former self. I made liberal use of the delete key and focused on Francis’ raison d’être. His family background – gone. His mentor – a mention. Pages on his first assignment in Clinton – deleted. Descriptions of the church and rectory – truncated.
And then there’s Paul. In the chapter’s first iteration, Paul was barely a blip in the priest’s mind. Yet it is Janelle’s search for the essence of Paul that is at the heart of the book and her reason for interviewing Father Francis. So, in chapter seven, Paul drifts in and out of the priest’s thoughts as he struggles with what he knows, what he thinks and what he should say about both.
I have a secret, though. I didn’t really delete Father Francis’ back story. I cut and pasted it into a separate document. It doesn’t fit in this book, but I might resurrect it in a future one where Father Francis is more at home.