They’re Not Catholics

Something became clear to me about my novel on Saturday. It was one of those things that’s kind of like that cliched lightbulb going off overhead—you wonder how it is you’ve not realized it before. It’s been staring you right in the face, to use another bit of overused language. What did I realize? I realized that there is no way in hell that they are Catholics.

Stephanie and I drove down the Cape today, both to do some research before I begin my revision of the novel and also to finally get out and do something fun together after months of her being preoccupied by her degree program and me being occupied by mine. Sure, it was just a day trip, and we still desperately need to get out and have ourselves a real vacation, but it was a nice gesture, nonetheless.

One of my favorite parts was getting to read to Stef in the car on the way home. I read from the novel, which she’d only heard very tiny bits and pieces of, and she seemed enthralled. Now, admittedly, she’s a biased audience, being my wife and all, but to see the kind of investment someone, anyone, had in my story after hearing just three short chapters was a real pick-me-up.

While we were down there, we made a stop at the location where I’ve placed the Cape house that is crucial to my novel, adjusting its exact location a bit, seeing how long of a run one of the characters went on, and so forth.  We also stopped at the graveyard in the center of Harwich, where several of my ancestors are buried.

This is when the revelation came to me, walking back from Joseph and Caroline Clark’s gravestones. There’s no way that the characters in my novel are Catholics. They’re descended from WASPy, Protestant New Englanders from way, way back, just like I am, even if we’re both on the tips of forgotten, unclipped branches of our family trees.

The Catholic thing stems back to when I was writing this story for my senior project at Bradford. I had it in for Catholicism at the time and so, the main character’s family became Catholic. It wasn’t even that important to the story. He was rebelling against religion, against the idea of God, not against any particular religious tenant. If I’d done my character background back then, I would’ve realized a long time ago what I’ve realized now.

It’s just amazing the things you’ll realize about something you’re working on when you get out for the day and just do your thing. There were several other small but meaty realizations I came to on Saturday, but that one was the biggest and, I think, will be the most informative, in terms of the rest of the novel.