Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snowflake - next step

Step 2 of the snowflake method says:

Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the novel.

Well, this is where I've got hung up. A paragraph! Roughly speaking, this is what I know about the story:

We begin with a dreamlike sequence in the forest when the boy Tommy Grimes sees a beautiful fairy in the forest. The main story begins with the adult Thomas Grimes returning from overseas to seek a fairy. He enlists the aid of the mysterious Ebenezer Bliss, proprietor of a "gentleman's" club, Abaddon. They consult the last Sibyl in her dilapidated caravan.

In the caravan, in drugged chunks, we learn:

Thomas lost his mother early and his father started to loathe him. The circumstances of his mother leaving and then dying are mysterious. Thomas discovers a book in his father's library with strange properties ("The Grimoire of Ebenezer Bliss"). We read two stories, both to some extent erotic and allegorical. Other mysteries: Tommy's disfigured face (like it has been put together wrong). Sir Jasper Despere - why is he interested in Tommy? What does Sir Jasper know about the Grimoire? The series of flashbacks end with the seduction/rape of the fairy.

Emerging from the caravan, Thomas and Mr Bliss seek out the great Sherlock Holmes. The great detective is at least as interested in Mr Bliss's origins as he is in Thomas's story of capturing a fairy. They set off for Pysketon to unravel the mystery and find the fairy (the game really is afoot.) The sinister Sir Jasper is delighted to see Thomas again. Sir Jasper relates some stories about his own exploits and those of Thomas's father. He alludes to Kate the servant and to Thomas's mother. The section ends when Sir Jasper introduces an Asian woman who claims to be Thomas's wife and states that she has come thousands of miles to finally kill him.

Now we get to Thomas's Memoires...in which he tells us what happened and seeks to reconcile truth and memory. Here we meet Kate and watch the ritual of the jam and the bread. We also meet Donovan the gypsy boy and his mother. Thomas discovers evidence that he is an alchemical homunculus, made from Sir Jasper's sperm in a laboratory beneath his castle. Thomas flees the unloving home with the gypsies and joins a ship bound for adventure. In fact, it's David Copperfield with some awful unstated secret lurking in the shadows.

Now we are off to Far East to watch Thomas Grimes become a fully fledged monster like the Blackbeard he has read about in his his father's library. And we meet the exotic prostitute that he makes his wife. And the terrible circumstances that lead to the death of Thomas's twins.

Now we rejoin Sherlock Holmes, but with Dr Watson narrating. The unpublished, and unpublishable, story. Holmes, as always, solves the case...but only by deducing his own fictional status and the skewed nature of reality. Thomas's father Daniel Grimes has murdered Thomas's mother, after an affair with Sir Jasper. Sir Jasper is revealed as Thomas's biological father (but with the usual use of sperm, involving Thomas's mother). Kate is tracked down and rescued from Bliss's Abaddon. She relates the horrible rape she has underwent - but not by Sir Jasper, who let her go, but by Thomas.

Holmes finds the fairy too. A picture of Nausicaa in the Grimoire. Which is now just a tawdry book. The seduction of the fairy was a masturbatory construct of Thomas's mind.

The resolution has Thomas now king of the castle, with both his bereaved, mad wife and Kate and the child born as a result of the rape all in his care. They all hate him. But, as Mr Bliss says, "there is no hell, save that we make for ourselves, as punishment meted out for our own sins."

Try to fit that into a paragraph?

Friday, November 23, 2007


Here's a piece I wrote about plotting on the Shed.

Back soon with thoughts about step 3 on the snowflake. Not sure it would be much help without some understanding of the building blocks.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Why Victorian? continued

The other thing is, things move so fast in the modern world, even if you write in the HERE AND NOW you are going to be fixed in time. Pubs are disappearing...smoking is no longer ubiquitous...phone boxes are vanishing. Plot staples are changing and so are settings. Just as you couldn't keep star-crossed lovers apart by having them married to someone else or not permitted by parents any more, so if you want to send spies or soldiers out to do their duty in modern stories, you will have one hell of a confused historical background to set it in.

Modern settings are changing too fast for the writer.

Also I prefer the myth. The Wild West of gunfighters and Red Indians. Pirates and Privateers. Ninja and Assassins.

Sure there are modern Myths. Maybe I'll come to them one day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why Victorian?

A couple of You Write On reviewers suggested that I should update Monster to the present day. Others just thought I didn't do Victorian very well, which is another matter.

Cobble says: I thought, maybe it would be better if you could bring this story into the modern era. He doesn't explain why though. Another earlier reviewer thought the same but I have long deleted his review...nowadays I keep a copy, but then I just got rid of them.

So why 19th Century?

Well it was partly the Gothic feel of the time and partly it was the last time that intelligent people believed in fairies. Think of the Cottingley Fairies championed by the likes of Conan Doyle. There could be a good fairy story written in the days of mobile phones, bluetooth and Stealth Bombers, but I could more easily imagine my protoganist in a Dickensian world, a world where Jack the Ripper walked in Whitechapel pea-soupers and Sir Richard Burton disguised himself as an Arab to infiltrate the stronghold of Mecca, and visited fantastic Araby in his translation of the Arabian Nights. I wanted Dickens and Mr Hyde, Sherlock Holmes and Dracula. In fact, I wanted to inhabit the World of Story, not the real place where fairies turn out to be cutouts from a magazine.

I was also inspired by Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Here was a world where Mr Hyde, The Invisible Man and Dracula actually co-existed with Sherlock Holmes and, well, with practically every other fictional character from Victorian times. Even Fu Manchu popped up.

My idea was that as Thomas Grimes started to seek his fairy he would have to go further and further into the World of Story, the unreal world where Fairyland exists, to find her. And in that world he could also find everyone from the Wandering Jew to Father Christmas. If I wanted.

My favourite review of all from You Write On begins: "A Monster in the Mirror is a magical feast."

Which is what I set out to dish up.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Step 1) Take an hour and create a one-sentence summary of your novel.

Hmm....so what is my book about? Well originally it was as stated on YouWriteOn:

A lonely, ugly Victorian boy covets a lovely fairy girl. But that was just what the opening was about.

So what was the original inspiration?

It's a bit cloudy now, but the story grew out of a Neil Gaiman story called "Calliope" where Richard Madoc, a one-book writer (suffering the dreaded Block), trades a Bezoar with Erasmus Fry in return for a captured Muse ("Calliope"). The Muse is female and nubile.

Erasmus Fry tells him, "they say one ought to woo her kind, but I found force most efficacious..."

Well I won't tell you the story in case you ever read it (don't want to spoil it), but after raping Calliope, it occurs to Madoc that "the old man might have cheated him: given him a real girl. That he, Madoc, might possibly have done something wrong, even criminal..."

It was two things that intrigued me...the sexual thrill in the idea of capturing a beautiful creature and the twisted idea that if she was a Muse, and therefore not actually a person, then rape was all right.

Out of that grew Tommy Grimes capturing a Fairy. But the real story is about rape, power and, at heart, what is right and what is wrong.

And it's about how people learn the difference, if they ever do. Isn't that what all stories are about?

And a once sentence summary of the story? How about:

A man returns from the South Seas to seek a Fairy he captured as a Youth.

There's a whole lot of story questions to be answered there.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

You Write On

Lets start with a bit of peer review. These are the marks received so far on You Write On from fellow writers-to be (lowest mark 1 on left, up to highest 5 on right):

Character 0 1 14 18 12
Story (plot) 0 1 15 18 11
Pace/Structure 0 6 17 17 5
Use of Language 0 0 6 17 22
Narrative Voice 0 1 5 21 18
Dialogue 0 3 18 18 6
Settings 0 0 9 25 11
Themes/Ideas 1 1 8 26 9

Using standard deviation these marks add up to an overall 3.9. Apparently. So some things appear obvious: Pace & Dialogue need some thought. And at least one person thought the whole idea was useless and gave it 1. Not sure who that was, so can't get a vicious revenge crit in either.

On YWO you can remove 1 bad (i.e. low mark) review out of every 8 received. So far I have removed 6. Wish I had kept them to include here.


Well this is a blog about a Work in Progress.

You can read the early chapters of a first draft on You Write On (an Arts Council funded website) at Monster in the Mirror

Problem is, I got stuck.

So now I've decided to start again using the Snowflake Method.

I thought I'd keep a record of how I get on...I have no idea how or if it will work.