Voices in the Walls 32

4 of 6 of an outline of the remainder of Voices in the Walls.

Eventually, Ben and Matt discover where Alice has been taken. Meeker and Bellows have sold her and left the story. There will be no shootout at the OK corral type confrontation with them. This is not a story about two evil men, but about an evil system. It would be fun for the reader, and Matt, and me, to shoot both of them, but that would cheapen the book.

Matt goes to the plantation where Alice has been bought, using his own identity for the first time on the mission, and is given the hospitality of the owner. This is a crucial scene. Matt is plunged fully back into his “real” life; he finds the plantation owner and his son to be kindred spirits. The father is nothing like the stereotyped evil owner; his son is a picture of what Matt would have hoped to become. Matt likes both of them immensely. They are so trapped in an evil system that they do not recognize it as evil. So was Matt, a month ago, and that old accomodation to slavery still calls to him. It was so much easier than the morass of emotions into which he is sinking.

Matt struggles with the knowledge that he is deceiving them and is about to betray their hospitality in a way that he would have found unthinkable a few weeks earlier.

Ben Sayre will discover where Alice is. Ben and Matt will plan the rescue and carry it out. The details of this will come to me as I need them.

Now we come to a crisis of conscience. Not Matt’s; mine. Once Alice is bought and brought to the plantation, being young and beautiful, she will be in danger of rape by her owners.

If a writer (typically) were to have Matt save a white girl from captivity, he would save her before she was raped. I am proposing to have him save a black girl from captivity after she has been raped.

Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

It needs to happen this way for reasons of realism, and for plot reasons. This is how it would most likely have happened in reality. A good looking young slave woman would have been “sampled” by one or more of the whites, even if I paint the owner and his son as above that act. And when Matt sees her again at the end of the book, I want her to be raising the baby from that rape as a beloved child for whom she has no resentment, however much she may hate the father. That is how I see her personality, and part of my goal in Voices is to push the one-race idea that I hammered on throughout my Black History Month posts over in A Writing Life.

But it’s wrong. Logic and plot needs be damned, it’s wrong. It tastes like exploitation. A black woman author could write this story with the rape intact, but I can’t. At least, I don’t want to.

Turning away from the implications of her capture, simply writing the book without the rape, would dishonor our understanding of how helpless slaves were. Writing the rape, even though it occurs off camera, dishonors the young girl I have created and am responsible for.

Yes, characters in a book do become real for authors, as well as for readers. Alice, who didn’t even have a name two days ago, who has not yet appeared in the text, and whom Matt didn’t even know to exist at the end of what I previously wrote, is already real for me.

This is one of the sticking points that made me stop writing originally.


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