The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Was The Longevity Thesis Inspired or Constructed?

I've been asked a few times where the inspiration for The Longevity Thesis came from, and since I'm from an academic background, it seems natural that I may have derived my stories from the workplace. I was even asked once if the mistakes that the character Opalena makes were from my own personal experience. I was a bit startled by that one, since as much as I love her, she's really made some doozies. I suppose I should be flattered that I wrote Opalena realistically enough that such an impression would have been made, however, I can assure everyone that I've never been in as deep as she gets in the novel.

I suppose the background for the story ended up being at a University simply because I have practically have lived at one since the late 80's, and it seemed the most natural thing for me. Jait had to be a prince, because what kind of fantasy novel doesn't have a prince in it, and Vernus ended up being an old professor, because I was always impressed by the confidence and power old professors always seemed to have -- and no, I don't think all old professors are evil.

That brings us to Antronos, the fellow in the lower right-hand corner of my blog. Where did he come from? Well, sometimes things just pop into my head, fully formed. In my twenties, I used to have entire poems show up in my mind, and all I had to do was write them down. Antronos was like that, except when I first imagined him, he was bald, had dark green eyes, and way more scales than he does in the novel. I've softened his image somewhat. I was very glad he showed up, however, since he has become the "glue" for the story, which initially was a disjointed series of scenes in which Jait just gets himself into more and more trouble without any hope of redemption. There were also other characters, performing acts essential to the plot, who seemed to have no reasonable justification for interacting with each other until Antronos came along.

In hindsight, it now seems obvious to me that the original unconnected scenes were written as stress relief, or simple expressions of grief or rage that I scribbled down to keep myself sane as I struggled to keep my head above water with my classes. Since it would have been completely boring to write an angst-filled diatribe on the horrors of failing calculus exams, it was much more satisfying to create completely fabricated scenes in which the emotions were real, but not the events. Then at least I could get the burning feelings off my chest, and if I wanted to, I could knock about a few characters here and there if I thought they deserved it, and then get on with my day.

After joining the Critters group, I shortly realised that disorganized tripe would never be tolerated in novel form, and used the storyboarding technique described in Crawford Kilian's book to get the basic events arranged in logical order. I tried to make sure each event had a cause and a consequence. From there, the storyboard was converted into a grid, with the point-of-view characters across the top, and the chapters down the side. Story threads were colour coded and interwoven, and ultimately dealt with one by one at the end of the book. It seemed to work quite nicely, and I think I will use this method again for my other books.

It seems now that I'm older, the creativity isn't as spontaneous, and my characters are much more deliberately formed, as is my prose. I wonder if that's because the physiology of my brain has changed as I've grown up, or if my muse got fed up with my obsessive editing and has left me for more pliable clients. I hope not. The Longevity Thesis turned out to be a pretty crazy ride, and I'd like to keep the momentum going!


Mary Resek said...

Wow you are but CREATIVE girl!! never realized how well versed you are.. got lost in the vocabulary, lol.. looking forward to "loosing myself in your book"

JD said...

Great post about how LT came about. I like what you said about getting older and ideas becoming less spontaneous, although in my case I saw a lot more ideas in recent years (decades?) evolving out of something versus just leaping into my head entirely unbidden. Yeah, it seems the wildly creative things that weren’t connected to anything came about in my youth. Now, a lot of ideas come about because I want to say something specific.

As for writing dark fantasy from experience, your readers’ questions may become more, shall we say, “concerned” if your fantasy writing becomes really dark. You may be confronted with “How can such a nice person imagine such horrible things?” You’ll need something to clear their confusion. There’s a famous line attributed to Stephen King that’s apparently supposed to really be from Robert Bloch (the author who gave us the original Psycho novel). Anyway, the line is: “I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf.”

I want that on a t-shirt.