I’ve just finished reading Jennifer Egan’s prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad and what I particularly liked about it was that it’s not a traditional novel in terms of character, structure or plot. I’m not sure that it has a plot, as such, or who her main character was, or quite what happened and when. Some chapters are told in the first person, at least one is in the second person and then there’s a whole section in Powerpoint that I thought would be terrible but in fact really worked.
There are times when Egan’s authorial voice clearly steps into the story and on several occasions the narrative flow is interrupted when she gives a quick summary (surely not – yes, really) of a character’s future life. Here comes the writing prompt.
Read the excerpt from A Visit from the Goon Squad and write a couple of paragraphs modelled on Egan’s African warrior. Look into your crystal ball and tell what happens to your character and their children or their children’s children. It might spark an idea for a story or help flesh out a character you’ve been thinking about and needing to make more rounded and real.
Here’s Jennifer Egan’s glimpse of the future:
The warrior smiles at Charlie. He’s nineteen…. Thirty-five years from now, in 2008, this warrior will be caught in the tribal violence between the Kikuyu and the Luo and will die in a fire. He’ll have had four wives and sixty-three grandchildren by then, one of whom, a boy named Joe, will inherit his lalema: the iron hunting dagger in a leather scabbard now hanging at his side. Joe will go to college at Columbia and study engineering, becoming an expert in visual robotic technology that detects the slightest hint of irregular movement (the legacy of a childhood spent scanning the grass for lions). He’ll marry an American named Lulu and remain in New York, where he’ll invent a scanning device that becomes standard issue for crowd security. He and Lulu will buy a loft in Tribeca, where his grandfather’s hunting dagger will be displayed inside a cube of Plexiglas, directly under a skylight.