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blogpost, writing

Narrative Creep

So for the last six weeks or so I’ve been working on a rewrite for a novelette I wrote at the beginning of the summer, another in a series of shorter works I’ve been breaking off of GoATDaD and the Army of Monkeys, the massive narrative tapestry and hydra-headed monster I’ve been wrestling with off and on ever since I decided to become serious about being a writer.  The original version was about 9000 words long, and was fairy well-received when I workshopped it with my crit group (Horrific Miscue Seattle, as lovely and talented a collection of spec-fictionating badasses as one might ever hope to work with).

“You could probably sell this if you already had a name,” somebody said, which I thought was pretty funny, and a really nice compliment.

The story in question is called “Turing Test” and, as mentioned above, it’s an off-shoot of the larger narrative of GoATDaD.  The protagonist of Turing Test is a supporting character in the larger story, a mathematical genius named Zephyrus Isosceles who’s recruited by the intelligence service of the fictional South American nation of Habanaguay.  He’s one of the first characters I created in the early drafts, somebody I had a couple of pretty solid insights into right away.  But as the story evolved I found the sections he was a part of growing away from him, into the larger dynamic of Habanaguay, which has a pretty big role in the larger narrative as well.

But I like Zephyrus, and wanted to give him some of the attention I thought he was due, and since most of my recent projects have been these pieces of the background noise in GoATDaD, I decided that one of them should be his story.

The first draft started out well enough, but really didn’t live up to the promise of the beginning, and some of the characters were a little too trope-y and not real enough.  So I decided to revise, which for me means to more or less completely rewrite (though I did keep most of the first couple thousand words), and I decided to bring some of the (for lack of a better term) magic realist elements a little more to the forefront.  And I decided to flesh out the story a little bit, and to bring in some more elements of the larger narrative in which Zephyrus’ story is or will eventually be nested.

Which is why the second draft is more than 20000 words long, with probably another four or five thousand to go.

At this point I’m too far in to do anything but just get to the end.  I’m totally freaking out a little that I’m not going to pull it off.  On the one hand, this is a part of the larger story that I’ve spent a lot of time with, and know pretty intimately, but telling it all from Zephyrus’ POV had proved to be a challenge, because he doesn’t really understand what’s going on, even though he is forced by events to make choices and take action and run real risks.  And there are elements of the larger story that aren’t so terribly important to his story, but that have to be straight, since at the end of it all, when the several large and small projects of which GoATDaD and the Army of Monkeys will be comprised are completed, it all has to hold together.  Which is tricksy, a little bit.

Of course, the only thing to do right now is just finish the damned thing, and get some other eyes on it, and see what they have to say.  It may be that this just has to get rolled in to the larger narrative when it’s time, and will be too twisty and involved to sell on its own (not that there are a million markets for novellas).  But I don’t generally write to market requirements anyway, which is either artistic integrity in action or self-sabotaging behavior, and is probably both.  Either way, it seems that I’m finally ramping up to writing GoATDaD for reals, which is scary and awesome all rolled into one.

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About Dallas Taylor

Dallas Taylor is the grandson of a rum-runner, a valedictorian, a handyman and a good Catholic girl. He lives and writes in Seattle, and builds things for a living in his spare time. In 2010, he attended the Clarion Writers’ Workshop.

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