Ok, back to some posts about writing on a blog about writing. Seems appropriate. Over the last month or so, I’ve taken a hiatus from adding to my novel and stepped back to flesh out the universe in which it occurs, specifically a sweeping history of the world of my novel and how it came to be.
I’ve done this because -at my core- I’m an outline writer, plotting my narrative from point to point. Sometimes I write more ‘seat of my pants’, but usually that’s only within an individual chapter or section. When you have a large narrative in mind, I can’t see any other way of handling it and keeping all of the threads in order and heading in the right direction.
It’s been fun and has added a lot of depth and logic for me to how my world works and why. It’s also at time drastically changed my story, added depth to certain characters and changed others completely. I look at it like a form of archaeology: uncovering new secrets about my own story. It’s thrilling to find out your characters are deeper and more interesting than you originally envisioned them. I suppose it is the closest I’ll ever come to my eventual readers in terms of discovery.
Perhaps of even more impact is the refinement I’m being able to do to the technology of my world. Because my story is set in an alternate-Earth, steampunk world, I have a lot more freedom with the logic of my tech. To some degree, steampunk is defined by its irreverence towards scientific law. It imagines a world where the fantastic is possible. However, no matter how wacky or insane steampunk machines might become, the narrative demands they still make logical sense within their own world. Aside from that, I’m aiming for a slightly less outlandish take on steampunk, trying as best as I can to weave my world into what we already know about the real world (and the tech of that time).
On the whole, this has been a thoroughly successful endeavor, allowing me to really establish a good sense of the science and industry of my world. However, it has also begun to illustrate flaws in my proposed narrative. Having already largely fleshed out the major events in my novel(s) and points I want to hit from start to finish, I’ve come across certain pivotal plot points that are not settling in well with my new vision of how my world works. I suppose it is only natural, but it is also a horrible realization to experience.
So, I’m faced with a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ in my narrative: kill the lovely yet flawed plot point or rewrite (or ignore) my new technological laws in favor of a beautiful bit of storytelling. At this point, I don’t have an answer. This event occurs at the end of the book and is the nexus of so many threads that just ripping it away is not possible. Yet including it as-is could totally ruin my reader’s faith in the narrative at the very end of the book, leaving a proverbial ‘bad taste in their mouth’ at the worst possible time. It’s a tricky issue and I’m not quite sure how I’ll handle it.