Sunday, May 17, 2009

Humor Metamorphosing into Horror Metamorphosing into Allegory

Of all the books I’ve written, my current work-in-progress is by far the most fun. Part of it, I am sure, is due to the past months of reviewing and being reviewed. I am more confident of myself as a writer, more accepting of my style, and even though the words still come slowly (I average about a page of keepers a night; the rest ends up in the trash) they are coming easier. They don’t fight me as much as they did in the past. I don’t spend as much time agonizing over the perfect speaker attribute or trying to come up with an original metaphor, which I would end up getting rid of anyway, because they always sound trite to me.

Another part of the fun comes from knowing where I am going. Because of the blogs I did on creating the character, I know who is his, what he wants, what his internal and external conflicts are, which in my previous works didn’t show up until after I’d written about fifty pages.
But the most fun is how the mood of the story keeps changing. It started out as a whimsically ironic apocalyptic novel, metamorphosed into horror, and now it has become something completely different: an allegory. A biblical allegory, which is itself ironic because . . . well, just because.

Chip, my hero, and the torments that beset him are reminiscent of the book of Job, or so it seems. It’s been many years since I’ve even looked at a bible, so I can’t give you specifics. But the overall feeling is the same.

How did this happen?

Details. Although I know the story and my character, I don’t necessarily know the day-to-day minutiae until I write them, and the story is in the details. Each action, no matter how small, has a reaction. Each reaction is motivated. How does Chip react to what is happening to him, and why? Why are the things happening in the first place? By such little steps – the hows and the whys — the story builds. And deepens. And metamorphoses.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Humor Metamorphosing Into Horror

My work in progress, a tongue-in-cheek apocalyptic adventure, is metamorphosing into a horror story. I study my words trying to figure out where I went wrong, but they seem to be behaving properly. Does this mean that I am losing control of my story? No. The problem is in the details.

Plausibility in a story depends on the accumulation of consistent, accurate details. Those details are even more important for a fantasy than they are for other types of books, such as police procedurals. An author of a police procedural can summarize or even skip some of the boring details. After all, any person who reads crime novels, follows detective shows on television, or watches documentaries about modern forensic techniques knows many details of a criminal investigation, and can fill in the blanks. For example, early police procedurals gave details about taking fingerprints from a suspect, but today most readers know how fingerprints are taken, probably even had one taken for a driver’s license, so few authors waste words on that particular detail.

On the other hand, only the author of a fantasy knows all the details of his or her world. For those details to seem real, the characters must act consistently with their history, experiences, and psychological profiles.

Although I might find it incongruous and therefore amusing to have a saber-tooth lion spring out of a dark alley in modern Denver, the character experiencing this is not amused. To him, it is unimaginable horror; therefore, to the reader who is experiencing the world through the eyes of the character, it is also horror. A character who finds an attacking saber-tooth lion to be funny is not a believable character, unless somehow I can make the reader believe that the character will react in such a way, which still proves that plausibility is in the details.

Since I am writing to my specifications and not to a publisher’s, it does not matter whether I am writing humor or horror. That the details are consistent and accurate within my story world does matter, and of that, I am in control.