Monday, February 2, 2009

Moons, Mayans, and Muses

When writing my previous novels, I didn’t bother with the underpinnings. I had an idea of where the story began and where it ended, but other than that, I wrote the story as I thought of it. I didn’t pay attention to the timeline; the days flowed one into the other without regard for weekends, holidays, or phases of the moon. (If I needed a full moon, I simply wrote one in, even if it was astronomically or lunarly impossible.) Invariably, though, in the second half of the book, I would get confused as to where I was and how everything fit together, and I’d have to stop writing while I figured out the timeline. My still unpublished novel Light Bringer was the worst because I had several characters whose activities needed to be coordinated, and I couldn’t hold everything in my head or even on a written chart. I finally set up a bulletin board, wrote a brief description of each scene on a card, then arranged and rearranged them like a puzzle until I got it worked out.

To keep that from happening with my current work in progress, to be able to track the story from the first scene, last night I set up a calendar for the hypothetical year of my story — the year the world ends. Even though I will not name the year in the book (at least I don’t plan to) I decided it takes place in 2012. That gives me a year to write the book, a year to rewrite it, a year to sell it, a year for the publisher to get it ready and still have it take place in the near future.

Perhaps it isn’t necessary to use the calendar of an actual year, but so much of reading occurs in the subconscious. Readers register details that don’t impinge on their conscious minds; they hear echoes of duplicated words and phrases; they get an uncomfortable if they feel that events couldn’t have happened as portrayed. So, it’s best for us writers to stick with reality when possible, especially when writing fantasy. (And, in the end, aren’t all novels fantasy?)

This morning I Googled phases of the moon for 2012, wanting to make certain my moon won’t be full or new at inappropriate times. I found the chart I was looking for. I found something else, too, something I had forgotten. The Mayans believe that the world will be end in 2012. Life imitating Art? Art imitating Life? My muse (or my memory) playing tricks on me again?

If nothing else, it tells me I did the right thing by setting up the underpinnings for my story this early. If I hadn’t, I would never have made the connection, and it might add an interesting dimension to the story, consciously or unconsciously.


  1. I think the Mayan link adds a really cool element to the concept of you apocoyptic novel. Honestly, I'm kind of anxious to read it, though I know you've said you don't intend to sell it.

    So, how's Chip doing these days, anyway?

  2. Actually, I think 2012 figures in a couple of end-of-the world predictions.

  3. That's true. An alien invasion is supposed to take place according to the entire theme of the series, "The X-Files," in 2012. That was the underlying conspriracy that made Skulley and Mulder flee from the cigarette-smoking man. I taped and watched the last two-part on that seriesover and over. My fifth grade grand niece says the world is supposed to end in 2012. I asked her why and they told her that in class when they studied the Mayan civilization. Then it said it on Star Trek once. Everyone is going to be hot for books like that... but don't wait too late or the window of opportunity will fly by. It's a terrific idea.

  4. I fully intend to sell the book if I can. When I first started it, I did it as a rebellion against the publishing industry because I didn't think they'd be interested. Poor Chip. I'm ignoring him again.

    I'd forgotten the 2012 coincidence, but now that I remember, I better get going on the book. You can't sell a book after the world ends!

  5. The Mayans and at least one other culture point to 2012 (if only I could remember which one ;-).

    Here's a quick quote from a USA Today article you might find handy: "On the winter solstice in 2012, the sun will be aligned with the center of the Milky Way for the first time in about 26,000 years. This means that "whatever energy typically streams to Earth from the center of the Milky Way will indeed be disrupted on 12/21/12 at 11:11 p.m. Universal Time."

    So you've got Winter Solstice, the 11:11 make-a-wish mentality, and the fact my brother doesn't hit 37 because we go kablooey the day before his birthday. ;-) I definitely think you could have fun with a book that addresses a little of that. :-)

    I do like the idea of mapping things out with real calendar dates and moon phases. And I've done the index card strategy, too...

    Sounds interesting!

  6. You have some of the most interesting ideas Pat. The Mayan element would add to the story because it is topical.

    I've done the dame with my writing, let flow and then oh, hmmm, wait a minute, didn't they do...and then have to go back and figure out the time line and make it all jell. A weird timeline or an inaccurate one does pull me out of the story a bit, not as quickly as unrealistic, or stupid acting characters, but enough. So it's important to get it right in my books too. :-)