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Aging with a Story
'How Is Your Fiction Reflective of Your Changing Worldview?' Mister Grey Cues the Crackpot: 9/28/21
“I have a writing question for you. As a writer I find that reading about method by other creators is the most interesting kind of article. I have noticed that your worldview has changed since I started reading you in 2000. Now most people writing in the 90s' and still writing now have just done a 180 and either sold out or went off the deep end. But your fiction has stayed consistently authentic despite living in a world in which everything that was right yesterday is wrong today and the bad guys of yesterday are the good guys of today. Current fiction—and I include comics and movies and TV—is almost all crap that has been totally compromised by adherence to the Cult of the Lie. So how do you pull off fiction—particularly a long series like The Sunset Saga and these novels that you have been working on for ten years. I mean 2011 was a whole different world then this shithole dystopia we live in now.”
-Mister Grey, Publisher of InTheseGoingsDown
First, my inner worldview has not changed as much from 1996 to the present as it might seem. Those books and articles I wrote for paladin Press and black belt magazine were heavily self-edited to gain acceptance in a world against which my inner mind was already deeply at odds with. The advent of POD publishing and the building of this site for me, permitted me to write more closely to who I am than what I think is acceptable. Keep in mind, that almost all of my non-fiction writing is a compromise between who I am and how much of that this world will permit. I still self-edit. I can be more honest—far more honest—in fiction than I can even in memoir. There is the deniability of the characterization. So there is that.
Second, my plots are weak. I write character-driven fiction, often based on only an introductory and apex scene and usually without a planned ending. That lack of narrative gravity in my fiction, I suspect, somewhat shields me from the false narrative we live in. As writers our work is shaped by our life. This is why Orson Scott Card, and many authors, would go into seclusion to write, because he was executing a story. The part of my life that effects my story lines is people I meet and know.
The three examples I can give of how I have managed being a different person when starting a story then when working on and completing it, are below:
The Sunset Saga
Begun in 2009, with volumes written mostly by 2012, a prequel written in 2014 and Seven Moons Deep, begun in 2012 and not completed until 2019, and the final volume, WhiteSkyCanoe hopefully written this winter, this is my longest term commitment.
I knew this thing was going to take a decade or more and actually planned on it being my only fiction and for it to occupy my time until my death. I outlined 21 novels. That has been truncated to 13, mostly because the Plantation America project which began as research for Seven Moons Deep, set in 1600s Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky devoured my writing time.
This series is about Time Travel.
Expecting that the series would take into my 60s to complete and having begun it in my mid 40s, I chose to age the characters. The series was also about how stated mission purposes by powerful philanthropists are laced with evil duplicity. Well, I lucked out there as the world of reality has become more like my dark time travel fantasy than the real world I had the Time Jumpers depart from.
Beyond the Pale
This short novel was originally imagined from the perspective of a scholar [2013] then from that of a child only [2015]. It was then expanded to a trilogy of novels [2015] and reduced again to a short novel [2020] and re-imagined again from the perspective of a fighting man. Ultimately, I decided on all of these perspectives, with the majority being the child. In the end, being fickle about the narrative perspective helped the world take on a shape that I had not originally imagined, something the indecisive process led to and was somewhat imposed upon me by writing myself in and out of various corners.
The narrative changed in 2015 as did the ending.
The ending was then discarded in 2020.
The narrative was then altered according to character perspectives I had not originally planned on using due to fatigue and my sporadic inability to connect to the child protagonist. On days I was unable to connect with the child perspective, I simply transferred the narrative perspective to another character.
Eventually, this process suggested an ending, which I discarded in the final week, then brought back, then expanded with an epilogue.
The first 5 chapters took form 2013 thru 2020.
The last 11 Chapters took ten days and my mind changed just as much about scenes and perspectives in the 10 day process as the 7 year process. The novel was completed through indecisive means, by forcing myself to write from the kind of character perspective I could handle on that given day.
….
Wonderfall, Originally The Spiral Case
From 2012 through now I have struggled with this novel as it is a historical science-fantasy and those two energies often short each other out in my mind. I began the story from a youthful perspective, then went back and wrote in an alternating mature perspective.
I expect to make a final run at this novel this autumn. I need to continue alternating perspectives to keep narrative consistency, which is the trick. I think I will do this as method writing, by drinking coffee while writing the youthful character perspective and alcohol while writing the middle aged perspective, which should work well enough as the mature protagonist, Richard Francis Burton was a roaring drunk.
Overall, I suppose the two methods I use to complete long running fiction projects are:
-1. aging or transmogrification of the protagonist
-2. interweaving alternative narrative viewpoints, even rotating protagonists.
In The Sunset Saga I did both by beginning to stress the older of the Bracken Brothers in the last novel as I myself aged. Indeed, since the younger Bracken was the idiot plot-driver actionist, all of his chapters had been written in 2012 and the rest of the characters' chapters, written in 2017 and 2019, were thus unhappily wedded to the mayhem I wrought with that meathead back in 2012.
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