I like to remind people that getting to the point where I am, with two novels coming out next year with a major publisher, was a journey. Before I even wrote the first draft of Thorn of Dentonhill, I wrote two other novels. Two novels which should never see the light of day.
So let's talk about them.
The Fifty Year War was a very bad attempt to emulate something akin to Isaac Asimov's Foundation,
where the key events of a multi-generational war is told through a
series of novelette-length vignettes. Because nine 10k-ish novelettes
equals one novel, right?
Except not so much. Let
alone that there isn't so much a "plot" as there is "stuff that
happens". There isn't anything for readers to hook into. The closest
to a "main" character is an officer named Benton who has a key role in
three or four of the sections, and then a minor cameo later. The only
other bit of recurring involves the various generations of a soldier
family who keep getting killed in key battles. That was my way of
highlighting the toll on the 'average' man in this war: killing off
pikemen named Weaver.
When it comes down to it, Fifty Year War
is essentially a chunk of Druth history that I had already worked out,
setting the stage for the "real" time I wanted to write in. So in a lot
of ways, it comes off as a prequel to something that didn't exist,
filled with the obvious piece-setting that prequels have, but making
zero sense to anyone but myself.
So I would fix those mistakes with Crown of Druthal.
There I had a set cast of characters, so the readers would have main
people to grab onto. And I would have them... do... plot-like things?
Yeah, not quite.
First problem with Crown comes down to the same challenge a lot of fantasy-worldbuilders face: I've made this whole world, and now I'm going to show it ALL TO YOU. ALL OF IT.
It was literally a travelogue with absolutely no McGuffin to chase from
country to country. The characters were the crew of a diplomatic ship
more or less assigned to go on a world tour. They were to go to each
country so I could show you each country. I totally had a whole
multi-book series planned, and by "planned" that meant I knew which countries they would go to. Which was a huge part of the problem, especially with Crown,
the book I actually wrote. I had to jam a series of events from "stuff
that happens in country A" and "stuff that happens in country B" into
something that looked like a plot for a single book. But since I was
far more interested in just touring both countries, the plot takes a
good long while to get going.
The other problem is the
story is loaded with characters who are essentially there to be set
decoration. I had a ship full of people, with different specialties and
jobs, and most of them served absolutely no purpose in the
story. I did some logistical contortions to give most of them a toehold
in the climax-- so a combination of telepathy, magic and celestial
navigation is used to determine where my main character was being held
captive, so then the guys with swords could mount a rescue.
There are bits in Crown
that I'm fond of, but it's mired in long sections where characters are
more or less hanging out, taking at least half the book before the plot
proper actually gets going. And the plot itself? Kind of a long way to
drive to get a gallon of milk.
But in the process of writing these two trunked novels, I learned plenty about how
to write a novel, how to structure character arcs and plots. So:
they're bad, they'll stay in the archives for all time, but they were
vital to the process of eventually writing Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
The Horrors of the Trunked Novels
Posted by Marshall Ryan Maresca
Marshall Ryan Maresca is a Fantasy and Science Fiction Novelist, as well as a playwright, living in South Austin with his wife and son. He is the author of the Maradaine Novels:
The Thorn of Dentonhill, A Murder of Mages , The Alchemy of Chaos, An Import of Intrigue , The Holver Alley Crew, The Imposters of Aventil , Lady Henterman's Wardrobe , The Way of the Shield (October 2018) and A Parliament of Bodies (March 2019).
His work also appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced.
Visit his website at mrmaresca.com