The Duomo of Novels

DuomoDuomoDuomoOne of my favourite churches is the Duomo in Florence.  This has nothing to do with its aesthetic quality.  Although, I do like its rustic, red brick look.  Rather it has everything to do with the construction of its dome.  The dome is 52 meters high and 44 meters wide.  Construction of the church commenced in 1296 and wasn’t completed until a 140 years later in 1436. These facts by themselves suggest a marvel but what I really love about it is that when the church was commenced, Arnoldo di Cambio, the architect had no idea how the dome would ever be self-supporting.  He advocated it anyway, feeling certain that, well, somebody along the way would sort it out. (Alternatively a cynic would argue that he knew he wouldn’t be around for its completion a hundred or so years down the track, so why stress about it.)  Aided by the fact that the use of support buttresses were forbidden (something do with awful foreigners to the north using such ugly supports), di Cambio’s original vision prevailed and a 124 years later a solution to the roof not falling down on parishoners’ heads was found (by Fillippo Brunelleschi).  What does all this have to with writing?  Sometimes – for those of us who write without outlines – writing a novel can feel like dome construction.  Characters say and do all sorts of unanticipated things, which lead in all sorts of unanticipated directions. One just hopes that it will somehow, somewhere down the track all come together.  And in far less time than 124 years.

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