Today I wrote 1,500 words that should never see the light of day. I sat down and fleshed out the international relations of the Five countries in my novel’s world. I figured out some culture, history, resources, climate, political structure, and views of their sibling nations.
It’s pretty dry stuff, but it maybe should have been done from the start. I’m not sure. Maybe right now is the perfect time to do it. Now, instead of focusing on the background information as I write, I can go back and layer it in. I can talk more about Ithian shepherds versus Sytian pirates. If I had done this from the start, my would would now be winnowing down the amount of information I had put in the novel. Now, my job is layering it in. We’ll see how it goes. I’m doing such a large amount of revision, I don’t mind having to add in so geopolitical facts. I think it will help ground the novel in the context of a larger world. I just need to shy away from a Tolkein-esque complete history of a given land with accompanying completely invented language.
Maybe after this revision, I’ll have a better idea of whether this work is best at the beginning or here in the middle somewhere.
I spent some time this morning pondering the history of my world for my novel Wolf: Sins of the Father. I figured I would work on a map to help me flesh it out. This is super rough, and more representational than actual. Still I thought it might be interesting to post.
Again, it’s super basic. It also demonstrates why I’m writing and not drawing. I changed a country’s name today. I’m sure it’s residents will adapt over time. I also delete four whole countries. Mostly because there was no need for them. I have my hands full with three or four. Five works to give me some room to grow. A full Nine is a bit much for now. Besides, if I ever want to add more there are the warnings the people of Magdaran try to give about Things East.
I went to a small group meeting at church last night. The conversation of careers came up, as it always does when men talk, and I said I was a writer. I mentioned I had just finished the second draft of my first novel. The leader of the group asked the question, innocently enough, I suppose, “So, is it Christian?”
My mind has been in turmoil ever since.
How does one answer such a question? In the affirmative? Because it has themes of redemption and sacrifice, because the deity to whom my characters pray is a triune deity, and because one who does not deserve a crown earns it? Maybe, but maybe I should answer in the negative. Because the novel is filled with murder, torture, and hatred. Despicable people act despicably. No dude named Christ walks around giving fist bumps of love. So is it in the negative?
I have come to dislike guys like this guy, who is a perfectly nice and generous soul. Christians, in the modern era, have killed art by asking this question. Insane Clown Posse declared its love of Jesus, for fuck’s sake, and we worry that they use the ‘f’ word. Right. Let’s not all rejoice or anything. Those guys are fucking weirdoes. Do they sing Christian music? Ugh.
If I have signaled my Christianity, by being at a Christian church and loving that Jesus dude, is my novel Christian? Can it not be? I poured me into the novel. It’s broken, disjointed, full of holes and struggles to understand itself. But, again, no son of God kicks it with fisherman. It’s apocryphal best.
Is the Mona Lisa Christian? Would people have thought to ask the question during the Renaissance? Why would they? Art has the impression of the artist and the viewer. If a consumer of my novel, which I blanch at calling art, sees it as Christian, then I suppose it is. If he doesn’t see a touch of Christianity, then I suppose it isn’t. Art is very quantum.
I thought of asking him if he sold Christian RVs with Christian financing. I didn’t. That’s unfair. But I almost said my novel is as Christian as Tolkien, Stephen King, or Insane Clown Posse’s work. Maybe that’s what I’ll do next time. Let ‘em chew on that.
Bah, go read the interview with the lead singer of Jars of Clay. He says it better.
If ever there was an arrogance perpetuated in the Church, our art is to blame. Our art describes the world where we live. We don’t spend enough time with prostitutes and outlaws, drunks and addicts. We don’t write about lust and fear and greed and obesity and broken things. We relegate our art to the way we wish the world should be and not how the world actually is. We are only offended because we forget the kinds of depravity we could reach if not for God’s grace….
I would like to revisit this topic when I’m less riled.
Sometimes people do stupid things for stupid reasons. Your characters can do this, too. The difference between a well-written protagonist and some guy you know in real life? The best one’s figure out their being stupid right before all Hell breaks loose. They may use the knowledge to escape with their lives, or they may just know they’ve cause their own destruction. But either way, they should know.
Don’t be afraid to have flashbacks where the outcome is already known. Wizard and Glass (Dark Tower #4) is almost entirely the story of an event in the gunslinger’s youth. We know he lives through the events of his flashback, obviously. We also know two of his friends live through the even because he’s told us how they died and this isn’t it. We also know a friend of his does die in this story, because he’s told us that. So we already know the most salient parts of how this 700 page book ends. Yet, when I read it, all of that knowledge disappears. I worry for Roland and his friends, because I get sucked in.
That’s the lesson: make the reader care enough that enjoying the flashback is the reason for reading the flashback. The reader shouldn’t be wondering when he’s getting back to the ‘real story’; he should be devouring the flashback and hoping for more.
A caveat: Don’t try this until you’re pretty sure you have people hooked, either. Book 1 of the Series has very few flashbacks and very little backstory. By the time people read book #4, King knows they are going to stick around a while.
So, I finished the second draft of my novel, finally. I have commenced with the ‘writing with the door open’ segment of my work. Scary. My wife and some friends have the novel in hand and are reading it now. I’m a nervous wreck waiting for reviews. I thrum with nervous energy while a vast emptiness churns in my gut.
It was a neat experience to print it out and really look at it as a finished whole. I liked that part, but it was even better when I used Mobipocket Creator to make the file an e-book. I emailed it to the Kindles in my house. It’s a book. A tiny, unevenly paced, typo bearing, novicely written book. It’s right there on my device is such austere company as the Dark Tower series and the Long Price Quartet. I apologize to those fellows for showing up at their party uninvited. There’s a long way to go, and I don’t know this book will ever see publishing. Still, to see it one a Kindle is pretty nifty.
The experience has been a grueling one, and one that has wiped me out. But I’m already on to the next one. I have a few different books I want to write know. They each vie for attention and want to be picked next. Just when I think I’ve settled on one, the others raise their hands and make the universal grunting sound of kids who haven’t yet learned to fear being called on in class. I’m going to start Monday, though. Whichever one I pick. I think it’ll likely be the newest book of the group. It’s the freshest, and my mind turns to it the most. I’ve gathered a few lines and random thoughts for it. I’ve done some very rudimentary research around some of the topics. Oh, and I have some names. Hallelujah.