What I Am Working On

Since I finished “Second Thoughts” (which has been submitted several places but, if it is rejected, I shall rewrite, as I’ve noticed several flaws in it in retrospect) I’ve suffered a horrible case of dreadful writer’s block, a problem of having many somewhat vague ideas and no clue how to fashion them into full stories.

I am also suffering from a distinct need of money, and I may try and sell a few of the articles written to the loyal readers of this very site to the Sci Phi Journal. So look out for that, if you’d care to.

Writer’s block is, of course, a lame excuse for a writer, and if I was trying in any serious way to be self-sufficient I would simply refuse to accept it, and write anyway. I am not at that point, and so am not panicking. That said, not creating fiction because you’re suffering writer’s block is simply bad practice, and I’m working hard to correct it.

Of all of the “long” works I’ve attempted (e.g., novels or full length plays), I have only completed one. It was a musical, and it was awful. I blush to think of it. But I am quite proud of it as well, because it proved that finishing a long work could be done, and even by the likes of me.

Several of my disparate ideas have been floating around for awhile now, and any attempts I’ve made with them individually have sputtered out. The idea came to me recently to dispense with working on them individually and to combine them into one novel.

The goal here is to come up with a basic plot, then outline it chapter by chapter. Once that is done I write a chapter a day, or failing that at least 1000 words, if it kills me.

The three main threads:

  • A young man, a gifted artist (not sure of what yet – it could be music, painting, writing, or something else I haven’t considered) gets a vision of a woman, and he knows absolutely nothing about her except for one thing: At one time he was hopelessly, madly in love with her. Despite remembering nothing about her he sets out to find her, determined not to miss a once in a lifetime opportunity at true love. Inspired by the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice.
  • A boy sees a vision of a girl he does not know committing suicide, the implication being that this is a premonition from the future. Despite knowing absolutely nothing about her he sets out to find her before the suicide takes place, considering himself honor-bound to stop her from going through with it. Originally inspired absurdly loosely by the game “To the Moon”.
  • A girl’s father left several years ago on a trip to an unknown place. He is believed to have either run off from the family or died. The girl refuses to believe either of these things and intends to one day find her father. Inspired by “A Wrinkle in Time”.

I like all three plot threads. The underlying connection is the “hopeless hope” of the protagonists. None of them has any sane chance of finding the people they’re searching for, and indeed have strong reasons to believe that the people involved either do not exist or are dead. But all of them are driven by the importance of their tasks and the almost childlike belief that, somehow, someway, anything is possible if you try hard enough.

I have some ideas on how to connect the three characters, specifically the boy and the girl. The man is harder to place, though he fits well thematically and I like the general concept behind his story. So he’s staying.

What I lack is a setting. As of now I have no idea where these people are. I want them to start out on modern earth, but I’d like it to be “unearthly” earth, if that makes sense: some spot where things are still not quite caught up to the modern world. This is not urban fantasy, but it is meant to invoke a certain sense of wonder.

And I don’t know where they’re going and who the villains are, and why the three people they search for will be together, or how they will meet, or…

And yet, I sense that they belong together, and there is potential for a ripping good yarn here. We shall see. But I promise you this: Once it is plotted, it will be finished.

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6 Responses to What I Am Working On

  1. Kevin Stuart Lee says:

    Hey Malcolm. I’ve been a long-time lurker of your blog and have quite enjoyed what you’ve written both here and in the Sci-Phi Journal. I’m leaving this comment here because I think some recent experiences of mine might help you secure a setting for your novel. This past June I was in Cyprus for a month on an archaeological excavation. We were digging a Bronze Age City, c. 1500 B.C. Best we can tell, it used to be a major clearing house for copper mined from the surrounding hills. Then, again best as we can tell from the evidence we have so far, its inhabitants seem to have just up and left at the close of the Bronze Age, taking with them just about all the valuables not bolted down and leaving the city a ghost town. Within site of it were three other sites, a Neolithic village of circular huts on a short hill just a stone’s throw away, a Roman town with three basilica churches atop the hill across the field, and a Copper Age site, now mostly under the modern highway. Four sites from four different periods, all within shooting distance of each other. It was a continual source of wonder for me.

    We stayed in the nearby village up in the hills. Now the modern world has come to the village – few cars were appreciably old models, the coffee shop and one of the three taverns had WiFi, there’s liable plumbing, electricity, TV, the works – yet it felt like a very different form of modernity. It’s a sleepy village. The sounds you’ll hear are constant birdsong punctuated by the occasional sound of a door closing. Every weeknight the men gather in the square at their favorite tavern to play cards and drink beer, while Sunday is the big family day. The village is marked by Cyprus’ turbulent modern history. It used to be a mixed village of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but in the ethnic strife of the 1960s the Turks were driven from the village. The mosque still stands a mute reminder, and there are abandoned houses in various states of collapse. The neighboring village, all sandstone houses perched on the hillsides thanks to their local quarry, used to be a Turkish village, but is now Greek. Further north village is the old mining country up in the hills. The region was like the Saudi Arabica of copper in ancient times. There are entire hills made up of slag from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The mines were decommissioned in the 1970s, and there are three still up there near the dam that have been frozen in time, with abandoned rail tracks and ore shakers out in the woods. One mine was flooded and disgorging a rust-colored goop, and next to its entrance was an Orthodox way shrine, still with icons of the Virgin and Child propped up against it. Further up in the hills is (save the restored church) an abandoned village where all that’s left are fieldstone walls, remains of the perishable roofing materials, and whatever odds and ends the last occupants left behind.

    This is just the immediate region. The whole country is washed in this palpable sense of the human drama. It’s in the air. There’s the ruins of the Roman city of Kourion high on the limestone cliffs above a modern beach. There’s a medieval sugar refining manor house neighboring the Bronze Age and Roman ruins of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite at Old Paphos. Even in the thoroughly modern capital of Nicosia, it hits you: the Venetian Walls, topped by the small mosque marking the spot where the Ottoman army broke through, the Gothic St. Sophia Cathedral shorn of its roof and sculptures to turn it into a mosque, a building bordering the U.N. Green Zone dividing the island into Greek and Turkish halves that still has makeshift battlements of oil drums and tires on its roof. The Turkish side of Nicosia in many ways feels like it hasn’t left the 1970s. If you’re looking for a setting that’s a wonder-inducing unearthly kind of earth, pick a place and get to know its history and lore. What ghosts haunt its hills and nymphs its groves, so to speak. Cyprus was a source of wonder to me for all the reasons above, but I’m sure with some study and affecting and outsider’s eye, the woods of my native New England would hit me as similarly wonderful. God’s reality is wondrous as it is, and inspired pen strokes bring that across on the page. Maybe you could use Cyprus (I can tell you more about it if you like), or choose your own backyard, or some place that even vaguely excites your wonder in your breast. Get to know it, I guarantee your setting will roll out in front of you.

    Annuit coeptis,

    • Thank you for the sugestion! I’ll do some research into Cyprus. It sounds interesting.

      i looked up the setting for Wright’s new novel “Iron Chamber of Memory”, and now I’m jealous. Sark is such a cool place.

  2. Kevin Stuart Lee says:

    No problem! When you said you were looking for an otherworldly place on our world, I wondered if you were inspired by Wright’s Sark. Few things say “in the modern world, yet not quite of it” than the last feudal society in Europe with its own unrecorded dialect.

  3. I think this sounds absolutely terrific. Keep us updated!

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