Thursday, 14 November 2013
DNA of a Story
I’ve now finished the first draft of the story and I’m part way through reading it and seeing if the structure works. The final chapter is a bit of an epilogue. I don’t want to give any spoilers here but I’ll simply say that it involves two characters that Clara knew when she was in Theriesenstadt.
As soon as I’d finished it I realised that it in effect contains the whole story, yet reading it first wouldn’t really be a spoiler for the whole book.
I’d just started my PhD when the call for submissions to Lines in the Sand was made. For my PhD I wrote a novel, now called The Prophecy, then called Peace Child. I’ve now written the other two volumes, Babel and The Tower, and these two together with the first one, make up the Peace Child trilogy. Lines in the Sand wanted stories about war. So, I offered them one about the avoidance of war and it appeared in the ‘Seeds of Hope’ section. The whole of the Peace Child trilogy and my story in Lines in the Sand, ‘The Gift Child’ have a pretty similar premise, based on the old custom in Papua New Guinea when tribes that had been at war would exchange children to seal the peace: the child coming from one culture but living with another would act as go-between when new problems arose in the future. ‘The Gift Child’ was in fact my first piece of commercially published fiction.
A writing friend has just had her first novel published. A few weeks ago, she published a 100 word piece of flash fiction that tells pretty well the same story as her novel. Yet still doesn’t spoil it for the reader.
Have you noticed that when you look at TV programmes through your Sky box, you’re given a slightly incomplete synopsis of what is going to be shown? It’s a little more than a blurb. Perhaps it’s rather like an abstract from an academic paper. We’re told what’s going to happen but not how.
We’re all rather used to this now and in fact it’s a little disconcerting if we don’t know what’s going to happen in a particular episode. So all of this gives me an idea.
An interesting challenge, then: get all of your novel into 100 words. It must tell all of the story but not give away so much that it will stop the potential reader buying the book. It needs a name also: it is neither a blurb nor a synopsis.
And actually my ‘Gift Child’ is exactly 1,000 words and my final chapter in Clara’s Story is just over 1,000 words.