Thursday, March 01, 2007

Everyone has a book inside of them...

According to a Readers' Digest survey a few years ago, over 70% of people believe that 'everyone has a book inside of them'. Some years ago I had a conversation with a few friends (at least one of whom reads this blog; hello San) where we discussed this and I admitted that I had the bones of a story in my head. The story in question was a Narnia-like kids fantasy story and, when questioned about it I made the mistake of replying that 'my fantasy world isn't fully developed' - which resulted in a good few sniggers.

Anyway, the fantasy world has actually developed over the years and I now have a much more fully thought through novel idea. What I don't seem to have found is the time to actually put pen to paper (or, more likely, fingers to keyboard) and actually write the thing. In a moment of extreme procrastination a few years ago, when I was supposed to be writing my PhD thesis, I actually did write the entire prologue and first chapter of that book, but never wrote any more. If I was to revisit it, I would almost certainly rewrite the entire thing from scratch.

Over the past few years, two other story ideas have formed in my head, although neither has been written in any form, and I'm not sure I am actually capable of doing the ideas justice. But since this blog is an airing ground for my private ideas, I thought I'd share the half-baked ideas with you, my somewhat restricted reading public, and see if you want to offer any thoughts or comments on my book ideas...

Story 1
This started out life as being a kids' fantasy, but as the idea has developed it has become much more of a 'young adult' novel, more in line with the tone and subject matter of the later Harry Potter books (which feature death, politics, hatred and snogging) than the Narnia stories. As yet the book has no title. The story follows two characters, the first is an eleven year old boy from Edinburgh who ends up in the fantasy world, the other is a nineteen year old student alchemist from the fantasy world who ends up in our world. The story follows each character, chapter about, as they find out about the world they find themselves in and, as is usual in these sort of stories, find out about themselves along the way. The story is deliberately episodic in nature and does (deliberately) adhere to several of the cliches of fantasy writing. Hopefully I would be able to subvert the cliches in an entertaining manner. The main problem I have with this story is how to keep the story of the alchemist in this world interesting. Most of the action happens in the fantasy world, but I want some to happen here too.

Story 2
This is another fantasy novel. Given that most of the books I read are fantasy, it is no surprise that most of the books I want to write are also fantasy. The idea of this book is a much more complicated one. The entire events of this story occur in a fantasy world, although I don't necessarily think that any magic occurs here. The benefit of setting a story in a fantasy world is that the reader has no presuppositions about what is real there.

In many ways the pattern for this book was inspired by 'The Lions of Al Rassan' by Guy Gavriel Kay - that book is set in a fantasy world, yet there is no magic in the book at all. In that story the main characters are from different religious groups, with different gods, but the reader has no pre-judged idea of whether there is or is not a god - it may be that all the gods are real, it may be that none are, it may be that only one is, but the reader does not know - and it turns out to be irrelevant to the story, but the reader doesn't know that at the outset. When reading a fantasy novel people expect real gods and magic...

Anyway, the concept behind this novel is that it is set in a reasonably small, back-water type town which is part of a larger empire. The town is ruled (or is it?) by a woman considered by some to be royalty, considered by others to be a witch, considered by herself to be something else entirely. Each chapter is told in first-person narrative by a different character in the story. Thus, it is told from within the belief system and presuppositions of that character. All the characters have different viewpoints and perhaps none of them are close to reality. The main point of the story is who is this woman? The final chapter is told from her point of view, so we finally find out (or do we? maybe she is deluded?). This is a tricky story to tell and I'm not sure I have the time or ability to actually do it well. Perhaps when I'm older.

There is a cliche in certain types of fantasy novels relating to maps. See, for example, the stories of David Eddings. Here the maps are important and he seems intent on taking the story through all the different countries and places on the maps that he has devised. My subversion of the map idea here is that each chapter starts with a map; not a map of how the world is, but rather a map of how the world is perceived by the narrator of that particular chapter. For example, the opening chapter is narrated by a young teenage boy, his map shows the town (provisionally named 'Stone') centrally on the map, with very little detail more than a day's journey away from the town. The chapter narrated by the merchant has a much more detailed map of the whole empire, and so on. In fact the whole novel idea more or less sprung from this concept.

Story 3
This is the story which I am actually most likely to work on. It is not a fantasy in the sense of the other two, but is not set in the real world either. It is more of an alternative history. The story is narrated in first person by an old man, writing to a younger audience. I think he is writing in about the year 2050, when he is over 100 years old and is on some form of life-support machine. He is recounting the days of his youth to anybody who has time to listen. The novel begins with a shocking opening line - which was basically the first thing I thought of and the basis for the whole story that unfolds thereafter. The opening line is:
"Although I was only five at the time, I can still clearly remember where I was and what I was doing on the day that God died."
From that opening, the narrator recounts the story of how 'research theologians' in California had conclusively proved the existence of God some years earlier and talks through all the subsequent discoveries they made about the nature of God over the next few years, before inadvertently killing him in 1950. The narrator also recounts the response of the religious and non religious people, first to the revelation that there definitely was a God, then to the revelation that he was dead. The story also recounts the events of world history between 1950 and 2050 in the light of the absence of God. Due to the scatter-brained character of the narrator, all this does not necessarily come in chronological order.

The book is more or less an exploration of some of the ideas that I have been expressing on my other blog (Confessions of a Doubting Thomas), although there is a story of self-discovery which unfolds in between the 'historical' narrative. There will also be some twists. By doing this as first-person narrative I can, once again, impose a prejudiced and not-entirely-accurate world view onto the narrator.

The book is provisionally entitled 'God of the gaps' as the narrator comments early on about the 'God of the gaps' type reasoning which was once used by atheists before God was proved, and how it only became apparent that 'some of the smallest gaps are the most important' after God died.

Maybe one day I'll be able to write one or more of these proplerly. But for now I'd appreciate any comments you may have on my ideas.

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At 12:52 pm, Blogger Chris HH said...

Re Story1:
> The main problem I have with this story is how to keep the story of the alchemist in this world interesting.

Idea: The alchemist is involved in a case of mistaken identity for a terrorist bomb-maker, and has to evade the authorities and locate the real suspect in order to stop them perusing him.

At 6:54 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Thanks Chris, but no.

Half his story is already worked out, including the way he meets and interacts with two of the other key players in the story, but he has about half the amount of story as the boy lost in the other world. I just need a couple of minor twists for him and all is sorted out...


At 2:16 pm, Blogger Chris HH said...

No problem. I'm probably just one of the many NTL-Virgin digital subscribers currently going through "24" withdrawal symptoms!

At 3:03 pm, Blogger Ricky Carvel said...

Hey, I only have Freeview. We never got 24 series 3 and only recently had series 4 on 'Sky 3'. I'm currently 15/24ths of the way through series 5 on DVD...


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