I know I’ve been missing my updates recently and I feel bad about that. Sort of. The reasons actually happen to be interesting. As mentioned, my computer was in the shop and then I got it back. Also, I’ve been gone, at a convention for the last week, with no internet. I have no interest in paying $15 a night for bad internet speed. More importantly, most of my time has been taken up on my manuscript.
Now, that last one might not seem to be a big deal, because, hey, I’ve been writing for a long time now and I’d managed to get along just fine until the last few weeks. The details are interesting. I’m getting this into shape for submission to an agent. That’s an involved process.
Way back when, I discussed how I had come to writing. At the end of that, I happened to note the short term outlook for my project.
For now, I still want to discuss my thoughts on writing, but it’ll be more difficult. Perhaps, more accurately, I’ll be discussing sections of my manuscript, using examples of explain my thought process. Obviously, I won’t be compromising the outcome of the book. At least, not until it’s published. These are my practices in form, giving context to what I have said and thoughts that I’ll examine in greater depth in the future.
I’ll also be using the space to explain the world in a manner that can’t be explained in the book. Facts about characters that might never make it to the page, such as favorite colors or clothing. Maybe which is a dominant hand. Etc…
- Word play
- Character development
- Character names
- Chapter names
- Narrative structure of the book.
- Other stuff
The Name of the Book
Currently, the title for my manuscript is the Dark Masters: the Tears of the Phoenix.
The title still needs some tweaking. I’m not sure I’m overly fond of the main title, though I am attached to the subtitle. My concerns about the main title are multiple.
- The main title refers to a group that exists within the book. However, I’m not sure that name has meaning any more. In the current incarnation, the group is still referred to as the Dark Masters, but I have no idea if that applies in the rules of the universe. I named them that because I watched Digimon as a child. (Yeah, nice admission there, right?) In other words, even now, I’m not sure I think the title “Dark Master” still applies to the books.
- Having a main title also implies that one expects a series to come forth. Now, as much as I admit that is part of the plan, I don’t want to be so arrogant as to put the damned implication and ego smack in the title. It remains possible to go back in the future and call the book series the Dark Masters Saga, or whatever.
- Originally, the title was to just have been “the Dark Masters” except, you know, then I learned more. Also, the words have a negative connotation I’m not fond of. In all likelihood, the main title will be dropped, but not yet.
The rest of the story revolves around the Tears of the Phoenix. The thing about titles, though (and I’ll talk about this more in a later post on chapter titles) is how they are used. They don’t have to be amazingly important aspects of the book, or even physical objects. Most books are sort of on-the-nose kind of titles. I don’t mind that. Think the Time Traveler’s Wife, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, or Narnia.
However, there is another type of title. One that is abstract but almost entire relevant. Some are just abstract. Under the Banner of Heaven, for example. Not so on-the-nose. Others are even more abstract. I read a book, Beggars in Spain, when I was a freshman in college. Go guess what the books about. Go ahead. No cheating. You’ll never guess. It’s a science fiction book about a gene that’s discovered that allows humans to go without sleep. The entire title is based off a single scene in the middle of the book. Not really relevant, but I met the author and she liked the title, so that’s important.
The Tears of the Phoenix (TotP) presents perhaps a more spot on title. Though, it’s still more abstract. Not sure what I can say that doesn’t compromise the relative importance to the plot. At this point, I guess saying that it is important and no a one-off from a chapter is important. This does play a role in the outcome of the story. It’s also not a literal “tear”. That’s all I can say on the subject.
The title itself, I enjoy. I had a professor who claimed that titles needed a certain flow, that some were too bulky and not any good. For instance, she didn’t like the name “All Along the Watchtower” because in her mind, the title didn’t flow. I’m going to, as I did then, disagree. Respectfully, of course. Titles carry mean, it’s true. But what one person views as a good title, doesn’t make it a good title. The rhythm that exists doesn’t have to be merely smooth, or roll off the tongue. Hitches in the title can show just as much about the thoughts behind the book.
In the end, it’s about feel. How does the title feel when you read it? Honestly, I’m not sure.
Beginning are the source of the most frustration for me. At least, when it’s something I should be doing (asking my girlfriend of five years out). When it’s something I’m not supposed to be doing, that’s another story.
No matter what I’ve written, consistent feedback tends to be negative. The beginning of my stories are dense and hard to read. Sometimes too much information is given out as I try and fill the reader in on a world they are not familiar with.
TotP is a fantasy novel. There’s no getting around that. There will be magic and different races. There’s also science fiction involved, from computers and folded space. How these races came about will not ever fully be explored.
Though there are some genetic reasons to their diversity, the nice thing about fantasy is that, unlike science fiction, there isn’t a driving need to explain everything. This, however, does not mean that the history of the world doesn’t have to be explored. For the sake of those reading, of course what the world looks like and the current system needs explaining. This information is given through unreliable narrators. Thus, though some stories may be accept as true, they may not be, in reality, the way events unfolded.
TotP is, if not unique, certainly not a popular world within scifi/fantasy. By this I mean that humans are not the predominant race. There are actually seven distinct races in this world, who comprise what are referred to as the Sovereign.
- Islanders are humans. Often in the book called the Unforgiven by other Sovereign as an insult.
- Zhi Huei are the ruling class. Initially humanoid in appearance, they secrete a secondary, harder shell as they age. Similar to diamond.
- Shuang Xizhue Gul. Pale creatures of live in the frozen waist lands of the south.
- Gong Zhen are the forgers. Creatures of fire and metal, the live deep underground, forging technology and amazing pieces of art.
- Hun Xue’Er are anthropomorphic. The catch though is that no Hun Xue’Er can ever be the same. No two elephants or tigers. Only unique species.
- Fury are one of the two long forgotten Sovereign. Perhaps the most powerful. Appears with horns, tails, wings. Demons.
- High Born physically resemble European dragons. The second great race to go missing.
And that’s not even getting into the fact that there’s an established polytheist system in place. Only the Islanders are monotheists.
If that seems like a lot of information, or not all that much, consider this, that’s only the tip. That and somehow I have to work it into the story. There might be four humans total in this book, and not all of them get along. As a minority, I have to establish this world and the other Sovereign so much so that no one questions it. Otherwise, without this information, the reader may just assume this is a Harry Potter world, where magically, everyone is still primarily human
For various reasons that are explained in greater detail in the story, the Islanders represent the humans. The short version is that the humans are most definitely a distinct minority. They fought a war in the distant past (our present) with the rest of the Sovereign and lost. Thusly, for their sins, they have been forced to stay on twin island prisons. Thus Islanders.
When I say that this story is unique, this is what I mean. Islanders are despised and looked down upon. Unlike stories like Star Trek and Lord of the Rings, humanity is not a bright star that needs to fulfill potential. They will not inherit the world. They already did, blew their chance, and are condemned for it. This is not a story about humanity reclaiming it’s place. Their current status is simply a fact of the world. Most of the characters are none Islanders.
This all becomes a bit problematic as a writer. For one, I’m actively (though not intentionally) fighting against stereotypes that preexist in the readers head. The story dictated that. I do acknowledge the problems that come from this. Things become even more complicated when building the world.
This idea that I have to make it clear to the reader that this world exists needs to happen quickly and without appearing too much like an information dump. Otherwise, as a peer from high school once put it “I didn’t know he was black until he said ‘his skin was as dark as mine’.” She was referring the character from a book we read where there is virtually no external clues to the character given, so the reader, given the author being 1800 British lit, assumes the narrator is white. That sort of thing can jar a reader. Unrecoverable at worst, this kind of shock can make readers put the book down, insulted or annoyed. Thus, the world must be fully established.
Oh, not all at once. I’ll admit that. But, by the time the story really kicks into gear, around chapter 6, the world should be built. Ever major organization and player should have at least appeared, even if the reader isn’t aware of it. This covers all the normal territory, the “deus ex machina”, so nothing can just appear. The foundation must be laid.
For more details, here is a glimpse at information that has to be established in a world that, let’s not forget, takes this information for granted. There’s ton of other backstory needed to make that world feel believable. Not all them are questions I can answer here, but answer do exist.
- Why did the Islanders fall?
- What is the power structure in the world?
- Why train an army of specialized weaponized magic users?
- How does magic in this universe work?
- Who are these gods? What is the theological structure of the world?
- Do simple human values even exist?
All these questions will be answered later on.
Anyway, that’s the basic backstory of the world as it. The Islanders are no longer in charge. And will not, as far as I know, ever take charge. This is not a story about proving humanity’s worth. This is a story where we are no better or worse than anyone else. We are not the “good guys” we simply are. This is world as I have imagined it.
Thoughts? Questions? Confusion? Spoilers? Let me know. I’m happy to always discuss writing.
I’m going to post the entire table of contents, discussing each one in detail, without spoiling anything. Maybe. Maybe I will.