I really need to come up with an online icon for this book.
Spent a bit of time yesterday mapping the timeline and structure of Original Destiny, Manifest Sin. I’ve realized I’m going to have to approach this book differently from any of the other 20+ first draft novels I’ve ever written. With the partial exception of Madness of Flowers, I have always written in reading order. This regardless of how the plot or narrative timeline are structured. Even when writing first draft, my experience of story is remarkably parallel to the way I experience story as a reader.
Except that’s not going to work on this book, unless I want an especially messy first draft. And the meta-requirements of the voice of the book impose another layer of craft I really don’t think I can account for with my usual linear writing problem. I need the piece to be a dialog between Original Destiny and Manifest Sin. In my character sheet, I have labeled them “urges”. That word is a backformation from demiurge, and is a concept I’ve explored somewhat in the Green continuity. (Which, to be clear, is entirely a separate thing from the continuity of this book.)
In simplest terms, Original Destiny is the voice of pastoralism, premodernism, magic, divinity and the naturalistic world of God’s creation. The Dionysian impulse. The feminine principle. Mythos. Manifest Sin is the voice of industrialization, Enlightenment civilization and an increasingly mechanized, deterministic empirical world. The Apollonian impulse. The masculine principle. Logos. I need to work on those definitions a lot, obviously, but it’s the dialog between those two voices that must frame the book and provide the through-line, reader identification and narrative continuity. And I have to do so in a way which engages the reader’s attention.
So yesterday was a lot of thinking about that.
Likewise, I was looking at my character list with an eye toward whose individual stories are being told to highlight this tension. It is pretty obvious from how I’d first begun to address the story that my personal sympathies lie strongly with Original Destiny and the Dionysian impulse. But then The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen was always my favorite movie of Terry Gilliam’s Apollonian-Dionysian film quartet. However, this book isn’t about my personal preferences. I want to tell this story as a sort of parable about the evolution of the modern world, and it doesn’t serve me well to impose a moral axis. The Apollonian-Dionysian tension is fundamental to the choices that govern both culture in general and our individual human existences in particular, at least when seen through the dualistic lens of Western thought and philosophy. It’s not a good-evil dynamic at all, though in our world both great good and terrible evil have arisen as real consequences of that dynamic. And that Western dualism is decidedly the tradition in which I write and live my life.
Still, I will have my little jokes. So when I realized that Original Destiny was well-represented in the human narratives by Peony Sykes, Red Eyes Parker, Li Cheng-Ho and William Clark (who in historical reality was very firmly a creature of Manifest Sin), but Manifest Sin only had Aaron Burr and Thomas Edison to tell his story, I had to add another major point-of-view character. In this case, the logical choice seemed to be George Armstrong Custer. Why? Because I can!
So, anyway, that’s where my head is at today.
PS: I debated going into this much detail about my internal process in developing the book. I don’t normally reveal quite so much. But I figured, why not? It helps me to articulate my thoughts, and might be a useful glimpse into my writing process for those of you who read this blog primarily from a writer’s perspective. Feel free to ask questions or seek clarification on what I’m discussing.