Monday, March 27, 2006

Going Back

As I'm writing the novel of young Rene XIV and Sebastien the usurper, I'm thinking ahead to the ending, and specifically to Cynthia Delacroix having to go back to Earth and her old life after she's had extraordinary adventures with the boy king.

It's something almost no world-crossing adventure novels address -- having to go back to the child role after having made adult decisions and shouldered adult responsibilities, and being given adult respect for doing so. When young people shoulder adult roles in an emergency in the mundane world that puts normal adult authority out of commission, at least they're recognized as heroes, and perhaps even accorded a little more respect, a little more latitude. People understand when they have trouble resuming the child role, if they aren't always quite as deferential, quite as quick to assume that adults are right by definition.

But if all those adventures have taken place in another world, and you're returned to your own world just moments after you left it, nobody knows what you've gone through. And you can't even try to explain, because it will only get you dismissed as delusional. If you have trouble slipping back into the child role after having been treated as an adult for what may have been months for you, it'll simply be assumed that you're being stubborn or sassy, as opposed to having trouble going back to ordinary life after extraordinary adventures.

Yet at the same time, I don't want to create a downer ending, in which Cynthia despairs of ever being able to fit into a world in which she is going to be but an insignificant, interchangable cog. Because realistically, there's no way she's ever going to rise in this world to anything comparable in status to what she briefly enjoyed in Ixilon, being a counselor to a king, helping him regain his throne from an evil usurper, and generally being one of the movers and shakers. Most likely she will be expected to slot herself into an ordinary, workaday job for the rest of her life, doing as she's told, perhaps rising to a middle-management position, but certainly never being one of the great decisionmakers.

I may be able to suggest at the end that somehow Rene did find a way to open a gate that would allow Cynthia to move permanently to Ixilon, but somehow that seems like sidestepping the very real problem of how can Cynthia ever return to ordinary life after her extraordinary adventure.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


As I'm working on the novel of young King Rene XIV and the usurper Sebastien (as of yet untitled), I'm beginning to get the feeling that there's simply too big of a jump from Chapter 2 to Chapter 3. At the close of Chapter 2, Rene and his brother Alexandre have made contact with Eigun Eiderveyen, who is going to help them get out of the capital as Sebastien's forces are rapidly taking it over. When Chapter 3 begins, Rene and Alexandre are on the royal flagship, well out to sea, and Rene is reflecting on their escape.

I'd originally thought that the process of getting to the flagship and getting it out of the harbor probably wasn't of that great of interest, and it would be best to jump ahead and cover it only in a brief flashback. But as I tried to get Chapter 3 moving, I realized that there's just too much material there to cover in a brief flashback, and it really does need to be covered properly.

So now Chapter 3 is going to become Chapter 4, moving everything that follows forward one chapter, and I add in another chapter of events in Ste. Genevieve as it's falling to Sebastien's forces. I'm hoping this will prove satisfactory, and I'll be able to move forward on this thing.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Empty White Room

When I was originally starting to write the story of young Rene XIV and the usurper Sebastien, I was moving right along with the brief prolog and started the first few paragraphs of the first chapter. Due to other responsibilities, I had to set it to the side for a while. When I came back to it the next day, I couldn't seem to get it going again. Since I had a strong image for the second chapter, I decided to jump ahead and write that one, then come back and tackle getting the first chapter moving.

So, after perhaps a month, some work on another novel later in the sequence, and other life events intervening, I came back and reread the abortive beginning of the first chapter. Immediately I realized what was wrong with it -- it might as well be happening in an empty white room.

We have the boy king and Cardinal Chartremont, but there's absolutely no sense of setting. There's none of the exotic environment of the Floating Palace, the court, any of the stuff that's going on. It's as if the interaction between them takes place in a vacuum.

So I have to try to give the scene a sense of place, which means backing up long enough to capture the image of the room in which they're standing, of the temperament of the people assembled there, all the things I need. And as I do that, I finally get another bit that's been eluding me -- a better sense of why the two men are even meeting in the first place, and what it all means.

But it's an easy trap to fall into -- to want to jump straight into action, and in the process fail to ground that action in any sort of surroundings, to the point that it might as well be taking place in an empty white room.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Slow Uphill Struggle

Last week, I seemed to be making fairly good progress on The Crowns of the Martyrs. The words were flowing fairly well, and I was filling Chapter 1 in quite nicely.

This week, things aren't going so smoothly. I'd moved up to Chapter 3, to the scene in which Ligonier Rafferty is dealing with the public response to the announcement that two other senior prelates from their world are to be given the red hat in the upcoming consistory. I thought it would be condusive to relatively rapid writing, but instead every word seems to be a chore to drag out. I've been working on it for two days now, and I'm still slowly and painfully dragging out the words of the opening paragraphs, introducing Ligo to the reader. I haven't even managed to get to the point where he discovers that he's got an incipient riot on his hands.

Needless to say, this is quite frustrating, after the energy with which the words were coming only last week.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

After the Beginning

Discovering the proper beginning point of a novel can be difficult, but even then, the problems aren't necessarily over. You still have to work out each step until you get to the end.

Right now I'm working on The Crowns of the Martyrs, and I'm beginning to wonder if I need another chapter between the first and second. I'd originally intended to start with Jan-Pawel's arrival in New Rome on the Lake called Bitter after the end of his disastrous mission in the Caliphate. But I decided to add another scene in front of it, then expanded that scene to an entire chapter, moving Jan-Pawel's first scene to the second chapter.

Now I'm starting to think that there's too big of a logical jump between the close of the first chapter and the beginning of the second. We end the first chapter with Witten laying his plans to have Jan-Pawel "kicked upstairs" to a position where he'll have prestige but little or no power, and in the second we have Jan-Pawel arriving to receive the news of his promotion. On one hand, it seems to me that there should be at least a little of the methods by which Witten persuaded his superiors to grant this promotion without realizing that, far from wishing to honor Jan-Pawel, Witten in fact intended to destroy his effectiveness, permanently. On the other hand, every chapter I add to the front delays Jan-Pawel's appearence further, and could lead to confusion as to just who the principal protagonist is.