Friday, July 27, 2012

Milestones


Writing novels is like wrestling with angels!
Originally I had planned to write about the trials and labors of editing in this post, but something else came up.  Don’t worry – I will talk about editing, just not today!

That's because what came up was…(prepare yourself)…the end of my current novel!  N.B.: none of my novels are published, but I have, as of today, written four book-length works.  As usual, the moment came with an exciting, but also somewhat stunning feeling.  Anytime I finish writing a novel, I always have the impression that I have just emerged from Heraclean endeavor, yet at the same time, life goes on as normal and almost instantly I begin thinking of what to write next.

Not quite instantly, though.  First I celebrated my small triumph with Italian cooking, plus gin-and-tonics.  There was pollo al diavolo; there was peperonata; there was tiramisu.  All dishes were made by yours truly.  I felt thoroughly congratulated by the end of dinner. 

Anyway, a bit about the novel: 

Its title is ‘House of Mirrors.’  It is a complicated concatenation of all kinds of different ideas, as is customary for my novels.  Let me give you a run down.

Plot:  It all began back when I was in my fantasy phase.  Largely inspired by Robin McKinley, each of whose novels I devoured forty times over, I wanted to write fairytales retold.  I had tons of ideas for them, but then slowly my interests turned to real-world fiction.  An idea popped into my head:  what if I retell The Beauty and the Beast in a non-fantastical setting, without any magic?  No sooner had I thought this than I decided it had to be done.  Such was the origin of my plot.

Theme:  The next element was the question of fatherhood.  I love The Beauty and the Beast, but I’ve always thought the beast’s approach to love was a bit self-serving.  My question was how to remove that element from the story.  I solved it by breaking the beauty’s character into two women.  One is the beast’s lost love, and the other is his daughter.  Regret over the former drives him to learn how to be a true father – and of course the chief element of any good parent is disinterest in self for the child’s sake.  So there was my theme.

I saw ABT perform, then calmly incorporated it into the story!
Setting:  For some reason, almost from the beginning, I knew the story would take place in New York City.  There’s something fabulous and extravagant about the place, among all American cities, so it seemed perfect for a half-fairytale.  However, when I started writing the novel in my sophomore year in college, I discovered - surprise, surprise - that I actually had to know something about a place I was writing about.  My solution was to invent method writing.  I put the story on the shelf for several years, until I had some funds.  Then I traveled to NYC to research the novel in person, before starting it over from scratch. 

Title:  I needed a way to introduce the cursed, monstrous element of the beast’s character, while still making the story fit into a realistic setting, so I thought giving him a phobia of mirrors would help.  Plus mirrors and reflection make for such a fascinating exploration of human nature.  Originally I went very obvious with the fairytale theme, and called the story ‘Mirror on the Wall,’ but saner reflection told me to choose something less obvious.  Finally I thought of the fact that some people do have a fear of carnival mirrors, so I settled on ‘House of Mirrors.’  I like it much better

Character Development:  My chief quandary for the years and years I planned the novel was the beast’s profession.  He had to be rich, of course, so I knew he’d inherit money from both parents, but I couldn’t just have him mope around in a penthouse.  The theme of fatherhood finally gave me the answer.  If the beast is supposed to learn how to be a good father, then he has to make a home for his daughter.  A person who makes homes is an architect...problem solved.  Plus about the same time I decided this, I met a friend who became an endless font of all things architectural for me to reference. 

Points of View:  The final, final thing to be worked out before starting was what to do with the beauty – in this case, the beast’s daughter.  Originally I had planned to tell the whole story from the beast’s POV, but I kept feeling that approach was inadequate.  Then I realized I would split the story in half and show the events through both the beauty’s and the beast’s eyes.  When I was in New York, I saw a sign at the Lincoln Center, advertising a show called ‘The Architecture of Dance.’  I knew then and there that the beauty would be a dancer – structure in motion, to counteract the beast’s structure in stasis.  Plus, I studied ballet for five years as a child, so I could draw on my own experience to make hers believable. 

After all that rambling, perhaps you have gathered that I can talk easily and fluently for hours on end about  my stories!  Anyway, I will say no more (though eventually I may post a synopsis of the book).  Of course there were other elements which went into the writing, but the summary above traces the overall development of plot and character and theme.  I hope other aspiring novelists find it interesting.

However, now that the majority of my work is done (besides some editing, but more on that later!), I am going to take the rest of the justified.  I wish you all happy writing!

Like this cat, I shall now sit and do nothing but admire the daisies!

4 comments:

  1. Congratulations! It's ALWAYS a good feeling to finish a novel, and every small success should be celebrated.

    Nove sounds intriguing: I applaud anyone for having the gusto and verve to retell a fairy tale in their own unique voice (and removing its fantastical elements is certainly original). Best of luck with the dreaded revisions!

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    1. Thank you for the congratulations and good wishes. I'm glad you think the novel sounds intriguing. I've not had much feedback on it as I've written it, so I'm at the stage where I can't tell if it's good or not.

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  2. congratulations! good luck with the revisions - first draft is always the best bit, isn't it?! much love Freya xxx

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    1. It's so true that the first draft is the best. Revisions take some concentration. I'm excited the novel is FAR shorter than my previous ones, so that it could take less time to perfect.

      Thank you for the comment!

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