In which I confess: I’ve been completely rethinking my latest draft novel

Yeah, I’ve been busy doing other things as well. Work stuff.

But I haven’t stopped working on current novel. It’s just that the work has been going on “underground.”

Here’s the quick version.

As a writer, I operate on a kind of cusp. I aspire to writing novels that are well-plotted, because to me action is what entertains. But the questions that most interest me personally — and that (naturally) I want to explore with my books — operate at a non-surface level.

Let’s make this concrete. Suppose you have a heroine being chased by a monster. The action is all about her attempts to elude, outsmart, or fight her pursuer. And you need all that ducking and weaving and swordplay and making-of-alliances. It’s what pulls us into stories.

But no monster worth the name is “just” a physical threat. What makes monsters truly scary is that they evoke an existential threat. A monster that is “just” a monster is a cartoon. What really frightens us are things like suffering and death — things the monster represents.

Pick up that thread and follow it a bit and we find even more interesting fears. For me, for example, the fear of death is paired closely with the fear of “as if I never was.” All these memories, these experiences, the people who love me and think about me! Will that really all be wiped out one day, lost forever? Horrible!

Another closely related fear is the fear of losing control. This comes into play when people start thinking of “how” they would prefer to die. Compare “peacefully, in bed, surrounded by loved ones” with having your life snatched away from you unexpectedly. No chance to say good-byes, wrap up loose ends, settle back and take some part in the process (“more morphine please, nurse.”)

What’s scarier?

In The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carroll writes that “art-horror” works by imbuing monsters with qualities that invoke dread, disgust, and “the idea that unavowed, unknown and perhaps concealed and inexplicable forces rule the universe.”


And that’s just one dimension of our heroine + monster scenario. A novel has so many layers, subplots, relationships. Ultimately they must all work together, and on that same under-the-surface level.

The novels that I truly love –that I find transporting — operate almost as if the novel itself is a psyche. I’m thinking of novels like The Book of Ebenezer LePage. Everything about a novel like that seems to be part of a single psychic entity.

It’s not something you’re naturally conscious of (although people who write about GB Edwards’ book are likely to observe that the island shapes the characters, somehow. “You couldn’t write the same book if you set it on the mainland” etc.) But on an unconscious level, there’s a wholeness that transcends the categories we normally think of: character, setting, plot, conflict.

Okay, I said this post would be “the quick version” of what’s going on with my current novel.

So let me wrap it up by saying that I’ve re-titled it. It’s not Third, any more. The title is now Parthenon.Which I adore.

And it went from being basically “done” to being a WIP.

And it’s given me a constant headache as I have wrestled with how to show you, my presumed reader, something that I *know* in my bones about this place I’m writing about, which is fictional and yet not. I want to take you to this place, and show it to you, so that when you return to “the real world” you understand something you didn’t before.

That’s a tall order. I probably can’t pull it off. But I’m going to try :)

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