Monday, July 18, 2016
Old Ghosts and New Inspiration
Warning: this post contains spoilers for Whispers of the Dead, and I recommend reading the book first. Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.
Determined to salvage the promise in a premise I had tried to tackle long ago, I had ruthlessly slashed away at what I’d written previously so I could get down to its beating heart. Then I had developed it again from scratch, building a better background and finding a stronger cast until it all came together into a story I was eager to write. I was ready to do justice to the original idea.
But as much of the old material as I’d gotten rid of and replaced, the new novel had grown out of the same genetic material as the original, so there were a lot of similarities between the two versions as well as a lot of differences. And when I started the first draft, that created a kind of dissonance, a conflict between my memories of the original and the new story taking shape. Early on, most of the modifications were in the small details, but big distinctions existed underneath them, demanding subtle changes in tone and theme. And that made the first two chapters particularly difficult for me.
After all, Roshike and Teresa were breaking into the Batsu’s Osaka headquarters the same as they had in the old story (and she was still insisting on being part of that mission.) But their relationship wasn’t the same. What they’d come to do had changed. And though it ended in a similar disaster, it had a different meaning and would carry different consequences. Roshike would still wake up the next morning in a dangerous situation and facing vital decisions about what to do next. He would still return to an old haunt and hear about a new opportunity.
But from there things began deviating more and more from what I’d written before. Thankfully, when I’d started this I hadn’t gone back into the details of the original version, and so many years had passed that my memories were vague, making the ghosts of the old story only annoying poltergeists rather than scary specters. I still had to exorcise them as I went along, but that became easier as the Whispers I was writing increasingly diverged from the dead and buried version. It took on a life of its own.
Finishing the first draft had the effect of banishing the ghosts of the old novel. The power of the new story had helped it completely supplant the original in my mind. And as I worked my way through the rewrite to make this Whispers the best I could, I also got a lot of great ideas for where the story would go after the end of the first book – more, and more specific ones of what I wanted to write than was typical for me.
By the time I’d finished Whispers, I knew how Book 2 would begin and how it would have to end, the basic idea for Book 3 and how that would end as well. Unlike my Slowpocalypse and Watchbearers stories, which are more standalone, Miraibanashi would be a tight, traditional trilogy. And one I was eager and already ready to write.
In fact, I began fleshing out the book guides for Enemies of the Batsu and Endurance of the Free, even writing some scenes for them, before Whispers was published. But I put finishing this series on the back burner until after I wrote the fourth books of both Slowpocalypse and Watchbearers. My plan was to then write and release Miraibanashi books 2 and 3 back-to-back to complete this story.