Our internet has been more down than up since last Wednesday, hence no postings since last Friday.
Over the weekend, I decided to look at some of my old notes. After all, I have spent about twenty-seven years working on the idea I'm tackling with NaNoWriMo, with varying levels of activity and success, writing scene outtakes, discussing plot lines, writing out question/answer segments for myself to address some of the more critical problems arising from the work—all of which add up to hundreds of pages and thousands of hours of work.
What I've done over the past twenty-seven years is to get excited about an idea pertaining to the series, start working on it, write about scenes, possible outcomes of the use of magic, how the use of magic would be limited and controlled, and also how the majority of the themes that populate my work—life, living, death, dying, health, illness, truth, honesty, lying and deceit - fit in with the world. Now that I've picked it up again, I thought, no sense reinventing the wheel. It was a decision that has helped me have a clearer picture of where I'm headed (I can't believe how much I forgot), and so am happy I spent the time doing it, yet has also been a decision that I regret, in some part.
It reminded me of my struggle to write fantasy. I've never thought that I write fantasy particularly well, and my strongest works (though, in fairness, I should also say all of my finished works) are not fantasy—and wouldn't even fall under magical realism. They're decidedly real.
Writing fantasy involves making the ridiculous seem perfectly sensible. Think about some of the more beloved fantasy stories of our times: 4 children walk through a wardrobe and find themselves in Narnia, where a White Witch rules in constant winter, and a Christ-figure is in the form of a talking Lion; Dorothy is transported via cyclone to Oz, where she is able to return to Kansas by clicking her ruby slippers together, saying, "there's no place like home"; a Hobbit carries a simple gold ring into the heart of darkness in Middle-Earth, destroying the ring's master, and also his malice and palpable threat, by throwing it into a volcano.
It's not a simple task.
What I've discovered is that in order for me to write fantasy that I won't automatically dismiss as garbage, I need to keep it real. And what distinguishes good fantasy from bad fantasy (other than the writing, some of which in this genre is atrocious) is an author's ability to tap directly into their characters, to find contemporary analogues for these preposterous or ridiculous scenes that fantasy (even the best of it—see the above examples) gives us. A character discovers that he can use magic? Great—find a contemporary analogue (CA) that fits, tap into the feelings and emotions that the CA give, and relay that to the reader.
Easier said than done. If any writer were to write a story that had infidelity at its heart, tapping into the emotions that propel the characters—and thus the story—is relatively easy. It's a sad reality that by the time we've turned thirty, a good many of us have been cheated on, and if we're lucky enough to have dodged that bullet, then we probably have a close friend or two that we've counseled through their own struggles either as the "cheater" or the "cheatee". It's not difficult to wrap our minds around what a person is probably feeling, and we don't have to search for CAs.
In the past, if I were where I am now, shouldered and burdened with more insecurities about writing this than I can keep track of, I would have given up. Or, rather, where I did give up—many, many times. But that's exactly why I decided to work on this series during National Novel Writing Month, because I can't give up. It's not in the cards. I have a calendar with my expected daily word counts, and I have to meet them. Even if everything I write is horrid and unconvincing, and I can't find the necessary contemporary analogues to make my 'fantasy' work, I have to reach 50,000 words.
My hope, while I push forward, is that in the next 30,000 words I write, I get back to being "jazzed up" as I was in the beginning, as a friend of mine put it. If I do, if I'm able to find inspiration, then I will have learned the greatest lesson that the project of this month could teach me: never give up.