Tuesday, 27 September 2016
starting Chaptershill over
It was when we moved back to Scotland that I first thought I would like to try writing.
Two of the kids were at nursery or school, and for the first time in a long time I wasn't involved in any work.
Although I'd written plenty in the line of work, I'd not written anything creative for years, so I joined a local creative writing class, and I loved it.
One of the first things we had to do in that class was to write something with a strong sense of place. I wrote about the city of Chaptershill, which seemed to have been waiting there in my mind's eye for me to notice it. I didn't have to make up what it looked like, just find the right words to do it justice.
Once I'd got the place, I found the characters, and in particular my heroes, Brother River, who originally was a pastiche of George RR Martin's character Jaqen H'gar (whom I won't hear a word said against), but who has developed, through exploration of his back story into an interesting, deeply flawed man, who tries to do the right thing, but fears he's done the wrong; and Sister Stone, struggling to gain acceptance in a world which places her in the wrong.
I started off writing the story of Sister Stone, but realised there were massive holes which could be filled if I firstly told the story of Brother River in Chaptershill, so I got myself set up on Scrivener (which I happen to like, but there are plenty of other things you could use), and wrote an incredibly detailed book. Well, incredibly detailed until I got bored and glossed over bits.
Looking at it now it's as if I was scared to throw anything out.
It's also a really problematic story because it's too heavily influenced by all the stuff I've read and watched, most of which is strongly patriarchal in it's societal structure, but that didn't make sense in the context of Chaptershill, which is set in a Queendom, the gods having demonstrated long ago that men weren't fit to rule (in the made up story, I'm sure there are some men who are capable of it in the real world).
So I had a go at rewriting, and then I decided that was rubbish. I had a go again, and thought that was rubbish too. And so I put it away and did something different, namely, wrote the Rose book which I'm now trying to get published, and a load of poetry.
But Chaptershill, and all the folks who live there is still sitting there, waiting for me to look towards it.
Back in Moffat when I'd shared a bit of the book as I was writing it, another person in my class had said that it reminded them of the Trudi Canavan books. I just tried to read the first of the series they mentioned - The Priestess of the White - which is an interesting premise, and I liked the outfits, but I found the story dull, and I can see that my story is dull too, which is annoying, because I really like Chaptershill and all my characters, and the cosplay would be to die for.
But I've had an idea.
Brother River and Sister Stone are both members of a post religious order (that they both think is a bit too religious still) called The Chapter. The Chapter emphasises the importance of studying things, so that we can learn how things are best done, and what works best etc, recognising that following a path like this will always lead to more questions (so it's called the Path of Known Things). Brother River carries out research work as part of his Path, and provides reports to The Overseer (the boss of The Chapter). He ends up having to work with Sister Stone on this Path, which is challenging all 'round.
Here is my idea.
What if instead of the waffly story I've got which is ostensibly from Brother River's pov, but is really from the pov of an angel on his shoulder became instead the detailed reports he writes for the Overseer? And then, because two eyes are better than one, Sister Stone is asked to provide a commentary on his report? That way you'd get the whole story from two, often conflicting povs, with one as a footnote. It would also allow each narrator to be differently unreliable, which could be fun.
I'm thinking it could be really interesting. But it could be really annoying as well (see my House of Leaves review). My plan at the moment is to rewrite the story in this way for NaNoWriMo in November.
But I want to know what you think. Does it sound rubbish? Ridiculous? Should I neck a final cup of beer in Chaptershill and walk away? Help - I'm too invested in this world and I need a sensible opinion... or just yours. What do you reckon?