Thursday, August 26, 2010

The beginning of the work year

With being sick and the beginning of the teaching year, my resolution to write every day has gone wanting. I must be patient with myself, and make sure that next week when things are a little more regular that I have organized my time so that I can do some writing. Actually, I have put some more words on the page for the beginning chapters. And in doing so, and starting Ken Scholes' Lamentation, I've gained some insight into how this process is going to work.

First, I'm really out of practice and just turning out quality sentences that move the story along. Or perhaps it's just that I am overly concerned with each word, and each sentence, because the going is slow. I believe part of this is not being sure what the first chapter is supposed to do, even though I have outlined it pretty thoroughly. I am happy with the words I've put down so far, but I'd like to see them appearing more rapidly! First, I had started with this idea that I could write what was basically a short story as the first chapter, but as I've gotten through the first ten or so pages I realize this is a bad idea, because a short story does not carry the burden of building a world in which the succeeding action will take place. Using a first-person narrative, and staying true to the voice -- I don't like those narratives where the speaker breaks away from the story at hand, the present, to provide historical background or social analysis. Maybe that works when the speaker is an erudite adult with an interest in theory, but not when the speaker is a sixteen year-old outcast with minimal education and a lot of minute-to-minute issues to deal with. Whatever details are provided must move the story forward, but there must be enough of them to convey the shape and sound and smell of the world in which he lives.

In Lamentation, which is growing on me with each chapter, the pov is third-person omniscient, or rather, there are several main characters, with different chapters focusing on their actions and perceptions. In each case, the third-person narrator knows what the main character knows and sees and thinks: through this mechanism, a great deal of detail about the fantasy worlds in which the characters live is revealed in a reasonable unobtrusive way. The different characters have access to very different kinds of information. Perhaps as the intertwined narratives continue, there will be less need to provide background information. Another things I generally don't like in fiction of any kind is the sort of  imbalance of popular movies, where there's a lot of meditation and conversation for about half or two-thirds of the book/film, and then someone turns up the speed, like we used to listen to the Allman Bros. at 45, and the last couple chapters proceed like a car crash. It's sort of like bad sex. A good amount of foreplay, and then a rush to climax. A different way to say that is that I prefer a pace that is more even, or variegated according to the perception of time, with some effort to slow things down when they threaten to run away, or to speed things up when the breath nearly ceases.

I also in this time of not actually writing as much as I would like came up with some more of the plot motivation, in thinking about the world at the beginning. In this world (Bratislava), the waters of a great flood have receded considerably, but there is a reduced population due to a pestilence that either preceded or accompanied the disaster of the flood. Let's imagine rather than a doomsayer's litany of the bad things that are destined to happen, more of a series of unfortunate events, in the context of peak oil et al. So as society and political structures begin to unravel relative to, say, the economics of energy -- e.g. the EU comes apart, communist parties take control of some governments, some ethnically compromised nations split or go to war with themselves. Maybe even Russian becomes the lingua franca on the region. Then, in a somewhat unrelated way, there is a climactic or geological event, like the explosion of the Yellowstone volcano, that disrupts the climate, and in the aftermath, a very ordinary old-fashioned illness like small pox or something descends on what's left of the population, a plague. As the people move back into the city and re-establish the rudiments of civil society, an economy, and government, there is a prohibition enacted against what are called the Magiks, due to the dubious relation between this group of individuals with strange abilities and the class of bio-scientists who are believed to have made the errors that led to the downfall of the previous order. Our two main characters, both possessed of less than well-controlled or even useful, abilities, become the targets of bounty-hunters (in the absence of anything like an organized police force.) It's fantasy or science fiction and I can make up whatever shit I want, as long as it seem reasonably credible. Having re-acquainted myself with contemporary sci fi and fantasy, I realize that credibility is more a matter of imagination than it is scientific probability.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very Interesting!
Thank You!