Now that we’re beyond twenty reviews, I can stop pushing that (I’ll keep my eye on it until we reach 100), but can finally take the time to “unpack” the book itself, while not revealing plot points. It isn’t that I’m holding TWELVE DAYS up as an exemplar of some kind, but as I know exactly the conscious processes involved, and have a decent handle on the “unconscious competence” aspects of the story, I can address those things usefully. I’ll be happy to discuss anything that happens in the first third of the book.
Tom Barkley asked:
“One of the things you did here with great success is shift points of view among the characters in such a way that they become valid protagonists in their own piece of the events.
It certainly built up empathy or sympathy with the characters as I read along.
I’ve seen other authors do this, rarely with such good results. Was it hard? Did you have to do a lot of planing, sanding and fitting?”
The most difficult aspect of the book was understanding that I was detailing world-spanning events, but had to anchor them to the emotions or the reader wouldn’t FEEL anything. My saying “a story is a Swiss watch timed to a beating heart” touches this. The plot mechanics exist as an almost mathematical formula, or the Dell Logic Puzzle of “Colonel Mustard in the Basement with the Lead Pipe.” But you can’t let your readers FEEL that, or the book fails, right?
So…once I had a sense of how the temporal sequence of the novel proceeded, (what happened when and where) I could kind of rotate that four-dimensional model in my mind. So many characters! And yet the smaller the number of characters I asked the reader to associate with, the more powerful the emotional response. Does that make sense?
Whose story was it? Well, from the position of the characters, it is ALL their stories. Every one of them. But egalitarianism doesn’t work here. WHO SEES THE MAJORITY OF THE CRITICAL EVENTS? WHO HAS THE MOST EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT IN THE EVENTS? Can you see why that’s important?
I spent three years looking at this, and finally concluded that it was Olympia Dorsey, the mother of Hannibal (and that name just evolved. I tried a couple of other names, but let my mind keep roving until I found one that seemed to fit in multiple ways) who touched the most different aspects, was connected to both street-level events and high-level (the White House) events. I could create another character who would actually be IN the White House, at the cost of thinning out the cast. Didn’t see that as an advantage.
So…I begin writing, branching off from Olympia, but following her. Through her, we meet her children, including Hannibal. We meet Terry, and through Terry we meet The Pirates. Through Olympia’s job we get the news feeds and reactions and analysis of experts.
Through Olympia, we meet Madame Gupta.
Once the first draft was finished, I then selected a dozen characters, good and bad, and followed each of them all the way through the book, consciously using the HERO’S JOURNEY to describe their process and perspective. Each wants and needs things. What did all of this look like from their situation? Fleshed them out if necessary, gave them quirks and attitudes if not. Does that make sense?
Characters START as “stick figures” but they flesh out over time, draft by draft. Every time one of them does something that impresses me as “more real” everything else they touch is affected. It’s the idea that I’m starting to work by studying a wire-frame version of the story. But if I keep fleshing it out, at some point characters and events will “flash” and begin to take on a life of their own. It is ALWAYS scary. I ALWAYS enter the “Dark Night of the Soul.” I am ALWAYS afraid “it won’t happen this time.” All I can do is soldier on, and keep the fear at bay with faith.
And so far, every time, if I do the CONSCIOUS things I know to do, the UNCONSCIOUS processes will kick in and take me the rest of the way.
Write with Passion!
(the Hero’s Journey is an amazingly powerful tool to plot, plan, and even schedule your work. Want to know more? Then join us at: www.lifewrite.com)