Posted by: Alastair Rosie | November 30, 2013

Growing a Book

It’s almost a cliche but my epic fantasy has now been published on Smashwords and it’s been an epic journey from a couple of scenes floating around in my head to a 200,000+ words novel. The original was actually much larger. I started that one back in 2001and while some of the characters have stayed, others kind of drifted off into the ether and probably belong there. The first working title was The Calling and the main character was a woman born of immortal and mortal parents who receives a call to adventure, hence the title and well, saves the world.

The final draft has seen my main character, Murron put to one side for now and she may come back in another book. The main character is the Haydutian queen, Rhianna who is ravaged and sentenced to death by the invading Bulkaran army, but after being rescued by the elves has to find the strength to recover from her wounds and unite the divided clans of Haydutia. The Deepening Dark is the new title and the sequel will be A Fire in the East.

The Deepening Dark is a good example of how a book evolves once you take your hands off the puppet strings and just let your characters do their own thing. It sounds dangerous after all, aren’t we supposed to be controlling the entrances and exits of our characters? Technically we are but our characters are based on real world characters, quite often different people go into making a single character. We writers borrow from people all the time, names, faces, hair colour, eyes, fashion and mannerisms. They all go into making a character and as we know people aren’t predictable. The cowardly type sometimes surprises you when she stands up to a school yard bully and the quarterback type might turn to water when he faces a real threat. Your characters are real people to you, in your head they live and breathe. You can hear their voices in your head and if you can’t identify with that then perhaps you need to find a new vocation because your writing will be flat and two dimensional. We won’t feel any sympathy for the death of an innocent character if you’ve created a stereotype.

The point to this of course is to have your real life characters set out on an adventure. They might be thrust unwillingly into it like Rhianna or they may ride willingly into danger like Elannesse the elven queen. She knows full well the Bulkarans have infested their ranks with goblin shock troops but hey she’s pretty handy with a sword.

My original novel might have worked the way it was going but I wasn’t happy with it. There’s a point that Christopher Vogler makes in The Writer’s Journey towards the end. He basically says that if the book doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t right, go back and see where it needs rewriting. Trust your gut feeling in other words. If the book doesn’t read right to you then it won’t read right to other people and that’s a bad thing for writers, trust me!

The move from The Calling to The Deepening Dark actually started with the third chapter of that original novel where Rhianna makes an appearance when she’s ambushed by lizard men and saved by elves. The back story had her being driven into exile and rescued by other elves but something kept me coming back to this chapter in between pulling my hair out with the story. She was a fresh raw character, more a screaming wildcat than a winsome half immortal woman. I started thinking more about Rhianna and what had happened to her in the past. One thing led to another and I found myself going back a few years to write her story. Along the way I got rid of the lizard men and I’m glad I banished them to the ether, it felt cliched. I also took my hands off Rhianna and let stuff just happen to her. My reasoning being that I wanted to see how she would cope if my villains threw everything they could at her.

I must admit she did better than I thought. I kind of suspected she would make it as I’ve always had a certain magnetic attraction towards strong female characters. My she bears however were the biggest surprise of all, a band of Amazonian type warriors cutting throats and in general hacking and slashing their way through goblin and Bulkaran ranks with great abandon. That brought on another series of rewrites until I got to a draft that finally felt right to me.

I know this story has taken the better part of twelve years to tell, although I was working on other books in that time too, but I feel in my heart this was the way it had to be. Some books just write themselves and I’ve been there before, but other books need to grow inside you and no matter how many times you put it aside and hide the story in multiple subdirectories it’s like a stone in your shoe that trips you up at the wrong time. It will always come back to haunt you until you finally open up the document and start writing again. It’s true that there are some books you were born to write and if you don’t finish the book your characters will die with you. Without being too dramatic your characters were born in your head and without you recording their conversations and their actions we will never meet them. So what are you sitting reading this for? Get back to writing and don’t ever be afraid to pluck a minor character who plays a bit part in your work in progress, she could be the heroine who saves the world, and your book.

Next week we will be looking at the role of the female warrior, seeing as I’ve got legions of them in The Deepening Dark. I’ll be going over real examples from history and bringing their stories into focus. It’s a journey that starts with the mythology around the Amazons and ends sometime in this century, you’ll meet well known characters like Boudica and lesser known ones like the Tru’ung Sisters of Vietnam. Some are great and noble women and others tragically flawed, some were doomed by their circumstances and others rode the competing tides to find some kind of balance. It’s all grist for the mill for writers and I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I look forward to uncovering the truth behind the fiction and hype.

Don’t forget to check out The Deepening Dark on Smashwords, at $1.99 it’s a steal. Feel free to leave reviews on Smashwords or Goodreads.

Have a great writing week.

Cheers,

Alastair

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Responses

  1. Hi! I got your book blogs message so I thought I’d stop by and give you a follow! If you are interested, I post book reviews, cover reveals and any other bookish topics that are on my mind at The Bookish Fairy (http://lostinabooknook.blogspot.com/). I would love it if you followed me back 🙂
    -Nichole


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