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Find the Lie, Nail the Story

novel writing process May 13, 2018

'Why haven't you done anything with the book you wrote last year?' My son asked me.

'Because it's not important. I needed to write it but the world doesn't need it.'

'I would read it.'

'You can't because it's not published. I'm not publishing it.'

This is the nub of the matter for a writer; importance.  I know it's hard to confess it. But it's true. It's only a sense of its 'importance' that will drive you all the way to the end to publishing that book. 

I have wrestled with myself to pinpoint the importance of the book I am writing. At first I began wanting it to be adorable, then I knew it had to also be important but I was only half sure why. After all, why should my time on this earth, my experience, my opinions lead me to any discoveries or convictions or ideas of any importance to others?

I had a premise and a plan for the book, and was armed with materials and ideas thanks to the studies of the Classic course which would stand a chance of the work being 'adorable' but in plunging into the writing I opened up a new vein of 'importance'.  And this happened in the work itself and I doubt I would have happened upon it by a more scientific method of compiling evidence and analysing ideas. It came to me through dialogue.

So I chiselled into the premise, using those strange tools with a life of their own: 'human conversation' between two people who do not exist.

A big book is driven by conflict.

A Hegelian idea - thesis/antithesis = synthesis. A bicameral order. The Ayes versus the Noes. We cannot think straight. We are made binary-brained and we need to propose and counter to even find the beginning of the argument, let alone the end.

I had begun by asking - what is the truth this book reveals?

That is an ordinary place to start.

Once into the writing with my fine fictional folk in dispute it came to me the next question was crucial:

What is the lie this book reveals?

In The Alchemist the boy Santiago asks what is the biggest lie in the world and is told it's that fate controls us. The truth of the book is thus cast in the negative of that - that we control our destinies and outcomes (once aligned to the good energy of the universe.)

Agree or disagree, strong statements are required to advance stories, since they have a counterpoint and the truth lies in the middle. They beckon the reader sternly to enter into the thing.

Why is a book adorable? Because of the writer's imagination, loving heart, writing ability and craft skills.

Why is a book important? Because of the lie it reveals.

In a fable or fantasy, where you are creating another world you will need to consider the journey of the book in terms of a progress from the lie to the truth.

You will need to identify these elements in this order:

  • system (the real world which is swapped for a secondary world with a different system closer to the 'truth')
  • the commonly accepted myth (the organizing lie)
  • the adherents to the myth or lie (against which you set your avatar hero, your enquiring mind)
  • cracks in the myth
  • the journey to get evidence for truth

Your reader will be the good middle, the river, but you need to create the river banks of lie and truth.

We have two eyes, one on the truth and one on the lie.

Make a strong declaratory statement for each, allow each one its weight, and you will find the importance of your book.

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