Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Filler! 3-Day Weekend!

Through the magical magic of the internets and blogger’s ability to schedule posts in advance, I write this on Thursday! That’s yesterday! This is a time-travel post! Isn’t that cool? I think it is. Anyway, because I’m writing this yesterday, I’m thinking about Michelle’s post about single-sentence pitches for novels and that gets me thinking about what my novels are actually about. As Michelle said yesterday (which is actually today as I write this but yesterday as you read this because it’s a time-travel post), any book worth reading cannot be reduced to a single sentence--or even three sentences—without ignoring most of the elements of the novel that make it special and cool and unique. It’s those elements that I’ve been thinking about lately.

A few days ago (a phrase which still works in a time-travel post because it doesn’t matter if I say that today or yesterday, thanks to the vagaries of the construction)…Okay. I have to just let the whole time-travel thing go, or I’ll never get through this post. Which is supposed to be all filler anyway, but I’m leaning at a serious angle which is a problem but let’s just ignore that for now. Where was I?

A few days ago (etc time-travel etc) I sent the MS for a new novel off to my agent, to see what she thinks about the book. On one level, the new book is a fairly straightforward story about 18th-century criminals in a love triangle. The plot, I think, is very linear and I don’t do “plot twists” anyway so all of the surprises come out of character development. But it occurred to me that, just below the surface, this is a really freaking weird book because it deals with religion and God and moral compasses and slavery and ideas of ownership and control and I ask a lot of questions about all of these things without supplying even the barest hint of an answer and I begin to wonder if the book comes across as a sort of rant, which surprises me a lot. I didn’t realize, when I was in the thick of the actual writing, that I was so concerned with some of the themes of this book, but apparently I was. About which, huh. You could knock me over with a feather. I’m just hoping that the themes don’t oversway the groovy adventure story and that this book can still be read as a sort of historical fiction piece about 18th-century criminals in a love triangle.

Anyway, kids, there’s all that on a Thursday/Friday (time-travel, you know) morning. Because I always generalize from my own experience (who doesn’t?), I assume that I’m not the only writer here who’s been surprised to find themes in his novels that he wasn’t really aware of at the time of writing. Have you been shocked to find something coming out in your writing that you didn’t realize you were thinking about or felt particularly strongly about?

Also, this is a time-travel post because Mighty Reader and I are traveling today and I will not be around to read your amazing comments. I will read them later, I promise, but today Michelle and Big D will have to amuse and amaze you in my stead. I have full confidence in them.

Also-also, Sunday in the USA and Canada, we set our clocks forward an hour. I despise thee, Daylight Savings Time. I don’t want to get up an hour earlier on Monday. That’s the worst possible sort of time travel.


  1. Yes, actually! My first ever novel (which has actually become a six book series) tackles the issue of whether monsters are born or made.

    The message is, basically, treat others well, because everything you do has an impact.

    I had no idea at the time of writing that this was something I had been exploring. It was only after taking a silly online quiz about my series that I even gave it any thought. I discovered several characters for whom this particular message was particularly pertinent. It wasn't just my main character who had been twisted by the treatment others gave.

    When writing, I thought it was just an exciting dark Fantasy story.

    You aren't alone, I suppose is what I'm trying to say!

  2. Time-travel is cool.

    So are weird books. Sublimation started as a flash story about people gambling for the right to blow stuff up. From there it morphed into a story about the nature of good and evil and the drive to feel in control, couched in exaggerated religious language.

  3. I have recently been more conscious about raising questions and issues in my book, and what I realize is that I don't need to answer them, but I do like it when at least one of my characters answers them for himself or herself. I've started setting things up where two characters can be on either side of an issue, and they resolve these issues on their own rather than promoting some "happy medium", which is a bit boring for me.

    What about that earthquake and tsunami! So sad.

  4. Long weekends are the best aren't they?

    As for themes/issues in my writing I didn't realize were there, I haven't really paid attention to it much in the past. I sometimes feel that if I were to note that sort of thing, it would be like imagining in my head that someone someday might be reading my book more carefully than just to enjoy the story. (Like in a university classroom.) And that just feels conceited and arrogant to think about.

  5. I think the book sounds excellent. I find that it is that mixture of under-layers and themes that help to make it feel real and relatable instead of flat and dull.

  6. I used to be surprised by all the themes that came up in my writing, but the more I write the more I see they keep repeating themselves. I think I wrote a post on my private writing blog about my concerns with this and everyone told me it was normal and a good thing, so I won't worry.

    I have, however, been surprised to discover a few things in The Breakaway that have come up as I revise. I thought, huh, I didn't realize I'd buried those issues within myself, as well. Crazy stuff.

    Scott, I hope you are alright there in Seattle with the waves hitting. I haven't heard if the Sound is blocking all that.

  7. Oh, how I love thought-provoking books. I've often found less is more. In "Paper Towns" by John Green, he manages to pull of a really effective theme of freedom with a 'strings' metaphor. The MC never dwells on it, but another character does occasionally. The ambiguity, I found, is actually rather appealing.


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