I…grapple with my current work. It’s a commitment of time and energy. Five books that will examine four generations of one family over ninety years. We take it one book at a time, with a different focal relationship for each book. Currently I am revising what I can save from the old version of what will become book three. But the time I’ve honed everything down, I might have about 30,000 words. Most of those events will end up in the finished story, even if the actual words I have characterized them with don’t.
After I’ve done that winnowing, new writing begins. I plan to explore stories and arcs, see how they fit into my plot outlines and time tables, and focus on the tensions as well as the climaxes.
I’ve only stuck my toes in the shallows of this project. I can see the overall shape and vision of the thing. But from this side of the lake, I can’t see the opposite shoreline of the completion of the entire project. It’s huge and complicated. Worth doing, certainly. I want to do it well.
As most writers do, I read others. About a year ago, I saw the cover of Prospero Lost, picked it up, and thought that I would be happy to read a story with characters from The Tempest. I picked it up a couple of months after that, and just recently found my way to it in the big stack of books.
Here was the model of what I was missing. Prospero Lost is a story about the Prospero family. Told from Miranda’s viewpoint, after she receives a cryptic warning from her father, she and airy servant turned fleshy detective Mab set out to warn her seven remaining siblings about a demonic danger. The siblings turn out to be other famous characters in history and folklore. Oh, and the family just doesn’t get along anymore. Rife with melodrama, adventure, character conflict, and mysterious events, Miranda and Mab move through an increasingly complicated story which will be concluded in two more books.
Two things stood out to me. How did L. Jagi Lamplighter, the author, juggle all those characters so well? That’s a flaw in many books, including some I’ve written. It helps that everything is filtered through the tight lens of Miranda’s first person narrative. The second thing I noticed was the skill with which the author handled a great deal of movement in time and space. I was not stuck with that Forever Knight / Highlander guilty feeling of the obviously inserted flashback. It seemed organic and smooth. I need that for the Klarion books! I don’t intend to march my readers through a boring forward chronology. Much to be learned here.
I ventured out to Lamplighter’s website, and I discovered that the original premise for the book comes from a role-playing campaign she was involved with. I respect that. I have been known to pilfer characters and scenarios, for good or for ill, from such places. She made several revisions, no doubt. She also shares that it took her several years to get the book published.
My plans are to write a great deal of material of my own book, print it out and read it, make some decisions about what I will and won’t use, and try that out on friends. I also intend to look at what Lamplighter is doing at a skeletal/muscular level and see if I can apply those techniques to my own work.
It is handy to find someone who can model the sorts of things you can do. Thank you, Ms. Lamplighter.