Sense of Place #2: Christopher Beha, Washington Square Park
At some point, the neighborhood — and these walks around it — seeped into the story.
Place: Washington Square Park, New York
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Like many fiction writers, I have the occasional experience of making what seem at the time wild intuitive leaps that can be described after the fact as rather straightforward appropriations of life. The offices of the magazine where I work are in Greenwich Village, a few blocks from Washington Square. While in the early stages of planning out my second book, a novel about a young woman who undergoes a test of faith after converting to Catholicism, I spent my lunch breaks walking around the square and the surrounding neighborhood, thinking about this woman, trying to understand her. The woman had a name, Sophie Wilder, but not yet much in the way of a story. I didn’t know what happened to her. At the time my cousin Paul lived in a house on the north end of the square, and I would often walk by the place. At some point, the neighborhood — and these walks around it — seeped into the story. A voice came into my head, a voice that was not quite my own but was the voice of a young writer, working on his second book, walking around Washington Square, thinking about this woman, trying to understand her. I realized that the difficulty of understanding faith from the outside was part of the story that I wanted to tell, and that this skeptical young man was going to be the vehicle for telling this story. I decided to place this character in that house on the square, where he would live with his cousin, and I decided to set him to the task of finding out What Happened to Sophie Wilder.
Photo by: Brad DeCecco