I’m under contract to write the third novel in my Emerson Page trilogy. I’ve struggled to find my footing with this one. I’ve written out over half a dozen concepts and nothing felt genuine. It all felt like a forced narrative. This has been going on for months.
I had a hunch that the book should begin in the Arcade near Central Park’s Bethesda Fountain. I wasn’t sure how or why, but that space has called to me for years. I have a huge photograph of it hanging in my apartment, and it’s one of my favorite pieces of art. For months I’ve been looking for interesting aspects of the arcade and the fountain, hoping to find some link to Emerson’s story. Nothing.
So I went back to the primary source—Greensward, the original plan for Central Park written by Olmsted and Vaux in 1858. Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, along with the Arcade, are considered the heart of the Park. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay Nature had an enormous influence on the design of Central Park. Both Olmsted and Vaux admired him. My protagonist, Emerson Page, is named after Emerson.
From there, I did more research on Emerson, Olmsted, and Vaux and found a number of links to the muses of Greek mythology who figure prominently in Emerson Page’s story. All the pieces I’d been struggling to find fell into place one by one and before I knew it, my outline of the third book was humming after so many false starts.
If you find yourself stuck in your writing, I highly encourage a detour into research and into primary sources. The answers to our present challenges often have roots in the past. Our job as writers is to uncover them and bring them into the light.