samuel x. brase likes to write

Foundation: Structure and Voice

Posted in novel planning by Sam X. on 12 May 2009

When I started the first draft last August, I assumed a structure that was rather convoluted. There was a bit of messy constant encapsulation. I imagined the story being told by Ira Glass through first-person anecdotes, a collage of futuristic history. When I describe it like that I still get excited. A collage of futuristic history? I’d read that book every day of my life. Why hasn’t someone written it yet?

It didn’t work. Not when I tried it, anyhow. There’s probably a way to perfect that method, and I’d like to save it for a simpler story someday. This novel is way too big, too complex to be told in such a disjointed manner. I should probably cop to one piece of information; I don’t exactly intend for this to be one novel. Word on the street tells me that it’s easier to sell a series to a publisher and I’m more than fine doing that. The way I’ve planned this series is as a number of shorter books, each maybe 300 pages, but the lengths are of course up for change.

The arc that I laid out last week has action for six books. Each book has three parts, where the action is progressed on a variety of fronts. Politics, war, religion, economics, so forth. I see it as episodic, so that the public can easily digest such a big story. In time I will revise the main arc, perhaps par it down to five books or expand to seven. Who knows. But the point is that I have a franchise in my mind’s eye. A franchise that wouldn’t have to end when the series concludes.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. What I’m trying to say is this project will be long. Very long. My plan is to write the first book, establish in detail the full arc of the series, and begin shopping it out. Books are as much an art as they are a business. To walk that line requires a vast amount of egoism and determination. We’ll see if I have enough of either. Well, I probably have the go.

So the Ira Glass voice didn’t work for me. Which is a fucking problem because I have 45 pages written that way.

I’m now thinking about having the whole story told by one old man, recounting the whole adventure. Must I have encapsulation though? Why do I insist on having someone tell this story? Why can’t I just have multiple narrators? And all right, I just re-read part of Chapter 4 and I love the American Life inspiried narration. I am torn.

What if I merge the two ideas? Keeping some of the inter-textuality (like news reports) but then simply roll into a first person narrative when done with them. I can afford to drop the Ira Glass narrator I think, the omniscient narrator, and simply use multiple first person recounts as I go. This lets me drop the boring paragraphs of explanation. I can’t believe I even wrote this stuff. I’ll give this reformation a go soon.

Leave it to me to say, when I began this entry, that I’d leave the convoluted method at home for this novel, only to reneg on that about six paragraphs later.


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