Transition Girl

Why transition girl?... Best answered by a quote from the Iliad....."The soul was not made to dwell in a thing; and when forced to it, there is no part of that soul but suffers violence."

Friday, April 27, 2018

story board design

It's a sunny day on the Sunshine Coast - the perfect place for my niece to celebrate her birthday (even if she is working). I'm working, too - now four days into five that I set aside to start my effort to prepare a story board for a possible sequel to the book that is being released in late July. Yes, "the Peithosian Gift", now has its publication date and my meandering writing efforts since January now need to refocus.

I started April thinking about what full-length novel I wanted to write next. There are three possibilities:
(1) write the next part to the Panopticon series - three written, the fourth to be written - working title "The Helotry".
(2) write a sequel to the book just written - working title "The Peithosian Curse".
(3) write a completely contemporary piece based on one of my short stories - "The Hunger".

Each option has something to offer.
(1) It's been several years since I spent time writing about Gabriel and Nemesis and their siblings - they were an interesting family in an epic battle - I miss them.
(2) While it took me longer than usual to write the current novel, there is still a significant story to tell in the world I've created.
(3) An interesting family and a test of my skill to write outside my preferred speculative fiction genre and centred on a twelve year old child.

I put together a story board for Gabriel's next story at the time I set his family aside. My analogy at the time was, after well over a decade exploring the world of his family, I was ready for a holiday.

I've spent the last four days thinking about the sequel for the current novel - synopsis written, key new characters created, and two of six sub-plots roughly designed. There's quite a bit of philosophical musings in this piece, largely a reflection of the course I have been spending a chunk of my time over the last few months (and the next several) doing. At the moment, I also feel I've reverted a bit into standard tropes for the genre - the unknown narrator reflecting on past events (the conscience of the story), a group of scientists searching for the truth. I believe that they can both work as concepts in the story as long as the main protagonists and the conflict between them dominates the telling of the story. These are the plots/sub-plots I have yet to flesh out though.

I haven't started the story-board for the contemporary piece (so, for anyone thinking about the French film about vampires in Paris - this is NOT it). The child in the story is the offspring of a "fixer". I envisage twelve to be the perfect age between the innocence of youth and coming to understand the reality of the surrounding world.

As a rule, I spend a few months developing a good story board and doing any related research to improve the detail in story. In the speculative space, it involves a lot more thought-experiments (for the obvious reason that I cannot change the thing I've chosen to change in my "what if" question being explored). While there are some contemporary worlds I would consider exploring for real (immerse myself in a world to better understand the characters), I can say unequivocally, I don't think I will be seeking out fixers any time soon. I'll try my best not to take the Sopranos as my benchmark - brilliant though that television series was in terms of story-telling.

The designing of the story board is possibly one of my favourite parts of the writing process. It is the time when there are so many possibilities and my imagination can run wild with the freedom to travel along many a tangent as I figure out how to assemble the story-puzzle. It is wonderful to feel it all coming together. The ideas once formed can then be explored to my heart's content as I then write the story itself.

I'm excited.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


I was re-reading recently excerpts from one of the earlier novels I wrote in my writing career, which includes not only prose but a smattering of my poetry. It was the book I wrote to get out of my system the 'excesses' most writers experience in their early work. This for me was both flowery writing as well as the difficulty in distinguishing the difference between my own emotions and that of the characters I created.

I am much better now at writing (for example) a teenage boy even though I've never been one (my current manuscript being published later this year, the Peithosian Gift, includes a few such characters). The main character in my earlier work, Transition Girl, on the other hand, could be easily misinterpreted as my personal philosophical journey even though she is a work of fiction. I readily admit I saw too much of myself in that character - what I might have been if I'd made more extreme life choices. I still write a lot about philosophy generally, and ethics and family in my work, I just do not feel the need to channel my own emotions and character traits any more.

Anyway, here's an excerpt from that earlier work.

Utopia - a good place.
It is not a physical place. I have spent so much of my time looking for it. While I will always continue to have my breath taken away by the beautiful places that I have seen, there is more to utopia than melting into those spectacular spaces.
It could be a mental space, perhaps the place where the things that have made me sad no longer exist.
Things that I have said and done. As a thirteen year old, telling a boy who I did not like in school to have a rotten Christmas, the immoral turpitude in my unwavering voice – I still think now how cruel I could be. Cruel that I still am.
Things that have been said and done to me. Joshua saying he did not know me and believing he never did in the twelve years he persevered with me, in that moment before walking out the door forever – perhaps the most disappointing words ever uttered within my earshot. Cruel that he was.
Is utopia a state of mind? I look at the aberrant Brighton boy and wonder if this particular flaneur struggles with depression as much as I do. I pretend that using cognitive behaviour tools like the power of positive thinking will make a difference to what floats around inside my head and most days I get away with the subterfuge – the appearance that I am content with my lot.
What is natural happiness anyway? Is happiness a pursuit, a choice or something that just happens? Arguably, a lack of choice can be deemed to be a form of happiness. I have actually heard it described as synthetic happiness. But I think “making believe” that you are happy with your lot in life if you have limited choices is self-delusion.
(Drug induced happiness (a more obvious response to the phrase synthetic) may be another form of self delusion but can be irresistible for some and, quite frankly, whether it's real or not - elation felt in the moment could be described as happiness.)
I don't accept that dissolute restiveness will necessarily allow me to experience some level of euphoria. Although I accept that being out of control can make me feel unhappy sometimes. People are more prone to melancholy and depression when they lack control.
I actually feel more content when I am surprised and when those surprises are things totally outside my control - when I do not have to make any decisions at all or someone else makes the decisions for me. Maybe some measure of going with the flow - irrespective of the degree of control or choice - makes me feel content because it is easy.
I am not that different from the rest of my family after all.
Utopia - the place that cannot be.