Friday, 25 July 2014

While You Were Dancing - The Placement & The Meaning

*Sorry for the lateness of this post, I've had a rather complicated day*

This is it, the final entry in my series. This week I'll be focusing on the overall direction of my stories and how it relates to what I was trying to do with this novella. Feel free to skip this one if you aren't interested in the extraneous details and only want to know about the novella. If you do, simply read the other posts in the series. If not, read on!

"While You Were Dancing" is, in essence, the beginning of an ongoing story. It's not the first story chronologically,  nor does everything that happen here directly relate with others, but it still is part of a series. If you're confused about what I mean, then I'll try and explain it a bit better.

First, this is not a situation where I'm setting up a prologue for a trilogy or a series of standalone adventures like you see so much these days. It's not the elaborate. What I'm attempting is much simpler than that.

To try to make it simple, I thought of a story. About a decade ago, a came upon a story playing out inside my head originally being one of the style of "kid gets transported to a fantasy land," but changed as I began sinking further into depression. It was pretty wild at one point, but patently ridiculous. I couldn't get myself to write it down.

The story hung in the back of my mind, and was quickly joined by others. But I couldn't get motivation to write it, it was as if I knew it wouldn't be as good as it possibly could. So it just sat in my head for years, unused, as I sank further and further down.

When I converted to Catholicism, all of a sudden, it was like a dam burst. Over that year I started writing, and the story vastly changed in the process. Everything was just making sense and clicking, like a fog had been lifted on the events transpiring. Over ten drafts later, and I feel it might soon be worth sharing with the world. I'll most likely be shopping it around soon enough. But along the way to finally getting that story down, other things happened.

In total, six stories made their way to the surface, all interconnected in the sense that they all take place in the same world and follow a logical progression, whether including the same characters or not. Four of the stories had appeared during my depression as vague outlines, but only became clearer afterwards, and two of them were brand new and only came upon me as I was writing down the other ideas. As I've said before, "While You Were Dancing" is the very last of this series to come to me, it's also the most straightforward with the strangest concept and set-up. Still, something told me it was the one that had to be released first, and so it was.

In fact, "While You Were Dancing" is fairly different from all my other stories. Most of the other stories are more adventure-oriented, including the final story which should be quite lengthy compared to the rest. But it still connects to the others in a very important way, reaching out into the final story, which is, honestly, still a ways off.

As I said, there is a seventh and final story in my series, but that is so far off I can't even really discuss it here. For now, let me explain how these stories connect.

S.E. Hinton (yes, her again, but hear me out) wrote five young adult novels in her career, all of which were connected without ever sharing a main character. Her second novel featured the main character from her first in a cameo (acting out of character, if I wanted to be honest about it), and "Rumble Fish" shares name and locations with her other novels but is otherwise disconnected, and her last novel shares an important main location with her fourth novel. In fact, it was in that very fourth novel where her stories interacted in a way that surprised me.

One of the main characters from her second novel appears as a drifter and rocks the main character of the current novel's world, leading to a police standoff and the realization that he could easily be the stranger who is far gone. It is essentially an epilogue to the second novel (which had a weak ending, honestly) and an important character turn for the current one. You see, in that second novel as well as this one, it was hinted that both main characters are actually fatherless and have never met the man, a golden-eyed cowboy figure. Well, both characters have similar features as well as the same color eyes and are only separated by a few years. They're brothers, but they never learn it or see the connection. We, the readers, do.

It was an excellent character and story connection that wouldn't have been possible had she not connected her stories in this way.

Then it dawned on me that the world we live is so interconnected that things happen all the time to give us a second chance or be a blessing to someone else's life. So while the first story I thought of is standalone, I wondered about how certain characters got where they were, or how other people were affected by what had happened, or maybe how the main character's choices would affect someone else down the road. What happened surprised me. It became a web of storylines that continues to intrigue me every time I look them over. But while I could have written a bunch of stories aping this idea, I knew at a certain point it would just get tired, so only seven floated to the top and have maintained my attention.

It's not quite the same as world-building in the traditional sense, but I suppose it does build some semblance of a world a few years off of our current social trajectories. That's sort of unavoidable, though. You can't really separate a storyteller from their world, even when writing fantasy. My social commentary is mostly in the background, which is, ironically, where I've been told most of my action takes place since my characters are usually outsiders and loners.

While I deal with the growing issue of alienation and selfishness in the modern world, naturally the battle between good and evil appears to be fought in the background, since it is not being fought by larger than life heroes or villains cackling and twirling their mustaches. The real heroes, are usually the ones we never see or hear about. This is another aspect of "While You Were Dancing" I have been asked about, but I deny that the action takes place in the background away from the real world.

In fact, I think it's just the opposite.

I am of the opinion that the hardest and darkest wars are fought in plain sight without anyone noticing. Why don't they notice? Because they don't want to, it's not their problem, it's not that bad, or because they're too busy making themselves more comfortable to admit there might be more important things to deal with than their tunnel-vision world. Pick one, or as many as you'd like.

The world will end with a bang, not a whimper. The question is, will anybody be looking at the bang? They might miss a text, after all.

So if the battle between good and evil appears to be in the background in my stories, that's because that's exactly where the world wants it to be. You probably won't be seeing bombs dropping or city blocks going up in smoke in my stories, because those are specific (and loud) indicators of the war going on out there and the only thing we seem to focus on, not the whole story. There are bombs that go off inside of us that lead to the big ones going off outside, and that's what I'm hoping to focus on.

I hope you've enjoyed my short little series here and have enjoyed my novella, or have hopefully been inspired to give it a read. In the future I hope to improve both in my storytelling ability and my writing, in order to finally get those strange tales in my head out.

That could take a looooong time.

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