This month I, Lorenzo Samuel, am going take you along on a writing journey of speculative fiction. This is my science fiction advice blog.
I've started already, so you'll need to meet me at the next station. Okay, welcome aboard. We're traveling to the land of story development where a tentative tale named "Eve's Mother" awaits.
Yes, by the "Eve" in "Eve's Mother," I mean the Eve of old, the Eve of the Garden of Eden. Now, the story in the Bible about Adam and Eve presents a puzzler. Most modern men and women have 12 sets of ribs. In the Bible, one of Adam's ribs was removed and used to make Eve. That would leave Adam with 11 & 1/2 ribs. I have figured out how this could be whether you are a Bible fan or an anatomy junkie.
Modern men and women have 12 sets of ribs. Complete fossil skeletons also have 12 sets. You'll notice that God, per the Bible, did not disrupt Adam's genes or chromosomes. That means Adam's pertinent sex gene(s), even after removal of one of his ribs, would code for 12 sets of ribs in his offspring. Voila! We men and women have 12 sets.
That's a bit of an aside, but not much of one. Eve's mother is fictional of course; thus, she is figurative, not literally the mother of biblical Eve. I imagine you guessed that. The mother of Eve is named "Fehla" in my short speculative-fiction story. In the story premise, she has sped through the dark field, loosely analogous to the dark energy postulated by theoretical physicists. This dark field has no matter, energy, time, or distance in it. Therefore, who knows the amount of time or distance her trip covered. Roughly, the ship burst out of the dark field into space above Southeastern Africa around 65,000 years ago. At its exit, the ship traveled at 10 times the speed of light. Our material universe slammed it down to the speed of light, the theoretical maximum.
In the premise, she and her navigator have been sent on a mission to find a suitable planet for colonization (their home sun is about nova). One hitch is that planet Earth already has sentient beings running around on it. That's the bad news for these two missionaires. The "good news" is that environmental changes, mainly a virulent plague, are wiping them out. Only around 10,000 are left of a population that once contained 100s of 1000s. So, there you have the premise. What comes next?
A little background first. The two main ways of composing a story, novel or short, is by approaching it as a plotter or a pantser. A pantser, called an organic writer by many in the publishing business, keeps the idea juices running full blast while writing the story. Some pantsers call their method a journey of self-discovery. They wonder what will happen. How will this story turn out? They are always surprising themselves with insights, even about themselves! Their writing can turn and twist and reverse in a myriad of ways.
Many pantsers do plot, although in short leaps. They refuse to plot beyond that, however. They need and want to surprise themselves. My first 25 tales were done as a pantser. Some of these were written years ago. The trouble was, I had to extensively revise them all in order for them to meet the requirements of readers.
I liked the stories before revision. Would Mary Jones in Iowa like them? Sam Johnson in New Mexico? Through reading advices on writing, I learned that my creativeness was not enough. I was barely 1/2 way home. I picked up an old classic book on writing by Leon Surmelian. The author of the breakout novel "The Secret Life of Bees" had recommended it in the Afterword to her book.
The title of the writing book is "Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness." Technique is the measure. Madness is the creative aspect. Many 1000s of us have written our madness down, then shoved the pages into a desk drawer where they rot away, literally and figuratively. Once we have belched out our creation, that's it: Sadly, my 25 speculative tales.
I hated revising those 25 outpourings; after all, they were my creative babies, perfect in every way, the cutest, smartest, most admirable babies ever born. Only, like a new parent, my viewpoint was biased by my love for those I had created. I came to wonder, why would anyone else feel the same. Mary Jones in Iowa would think her new son or daughter was the cutest and brightness. I could carry on about Mary Jones of Iowa; she has her own sparkling tales to tell. She might write them down some day because they are the cutest, most exciting and brightest stories ever conceived. And, she might be right.
I had to face the issue a few years ago. I had to learn the craft of measure as Surmelian would say. I began revising the 25 stories starting with number 1 and worked through them all one after the other chronologically. I had to face up that I had left many gaps, for I knew the stories and could easily fill in the missing details from my imagination. This was one aspect of failing to communicate with potential readers. Another was back story. I knew the back stories; wouldn't my readers. Noooo!
During my process of revision, I found that I needed to plot; that is, deliver to my readers how the stories play out. Are there hooks to gain reader interest on what's going to happen, twists to keep readers involved and guessing, character development so readers care what's happening to the protagonist, decision points and crisis, climax and so forth so readers will end up thinking what a good story.
I've gotten a bit wound up in the past, so I'll move on. I've decided to be more of a plotter now and less of a pantser. What this is doing is moving much of the work of story writing from the revision stage to the formatting stage. In order to plot I have to know my characters, theme, premise and plot points well enough to transmit them to readers. I have moved some of my creativeness to writing ideas on 3" by 5" cards; I am organizing my madness.
In the next blog I will continue on with what I've learned and will give you a taste of how measure and madness fit together in telling the story of "Eve's Mother."