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Story Troubles

One of my favorite quotes about writing comes from Gene Fowler: "Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead."

That sums up the entire process of late.

One good thing out of all of this March Mayhem is that I've been able to work on some first drafts and edit those while my brain stews over the other books.

I took this photograph of a basin at the entrance to an Irish religious ruin in 2007. Before entering church, individuals would ritually wash their hands in preparation to worship. Sometimes, though, the problems hounded them though they had tried to leave the troubles behind. I realized yesterday that I was having two major problems contributing to the mayhem of late: Time and Character.

Setting is the time and place where a book happens. In historical fiction, setting has to coincide with reality as well as what the story is about. In some cases, the story follows the time period and one cannot have the story without a certain time and place - for example a book about early Christianity has to take place in the Roman Empire. Other times, the subject is important, but the story the time and place that best suits the story line is fluid such as Christian persecution. In the case of my book, Stone Shamrocks, and the series it begins, I knew the character needed to be in the late Middle Ages, but I did not know when.

At first, I set the series in the early Fourteenth Century then moved it to the early Fifteenth Century then back to the early Thirteenth Century, and forward again. While the storyline remained unchanged, I couldn't quite figure out which century would best convey what I wanted to convey. I finally decided that the Fourteenth Century was better and wrote the book as such.

That was, until I read my first draft, and started doing a little more research for a later book. Now, I've placed it back into the Fifteenth Century, placing it in April, 1405. Now, I have to go back through the book taking out one subplot and inserting a newer subplot which had always been there, but is now being developed.

In the story that I mentioned on Tuesday, Padraig's Cross, character was the biggest problem. I have characters traipsing across the globe from Philadelphia to Jerusalem for no other reason than this cross. While that is all fine and good, why they need to have the cross at that time is important. In other words: who else wants the cross? I need an antagonist for my protagonist. Since I mainly write mysteries, writing an adventure with a mystery sub-plot has been stretching my abilities, and reminding me of what the important aspects of a book are.

If you find yourself stuck with your book take a look at setting and character. You might discover that you need to change the setting (whether time or location) or you might need to add, change or develop a character.


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