Friday, April 13, 2007

What To Do

I'm worried.

I am writing three books on the second Persian War (yeah, I'm over-the-top ambitious). Most of the action in my series won't take start until book two. Book one is the set-up for everything that happens in the war, which allows me to introduce characters, places, and the events that lead to the confrontation between Hellas and Persia. However...

I worry about having too many discussions and flashbacks concerning the Ionian Rebellion (which occured at least 10 years before the story takes place and is essential to understanding why Xerxes is on the march). I'm worried that all the war councils and discussions about fighting are boring. I'm worried that my characters lack dimension. I'm worried about the overall layout of the story.

Do I worry too much? Not enough? Help!


Wynn Bexton said...

Well you're tackling a hefty subject. The best thing is to try and sort out what you can do in actualy dialogue/action and what may not be entirely necessary to explain in full detail.
I ran into problems like this recently in my novel, trying lay the ground for the up-and-coming civil war in Macedon that brings down Alexander's dynasty. It is so complex. There are so many sub-plots and back-stories but they all must be understood to somehow make sense of the final conflicts.
I plodded through it, but I think it has worked. That was why I ended up writing my novel in multiple point of view so I could let various characters tell their side of the story which helped with some of the explanations.
Good luck with yours. It's a fascinating period of history.

Carla said...

I'm not all that familiar with the history of the second Persian War, but it's definitely a hefty subject so it doesn't surprise me that it won't fit into one book. How about having some personal action for your main characters in book one so that it has a plot of its own as well as being the set-up for the big events in book two? This works well for Bernard Cornwell, who happily got over a dozen Sharpe books out of the Peninsular War by dint of inventing a personal story for Sharpe in each book. So although the big story (the war) builds up to its climax at Waterloo in book the umpteenth, all the individual books along the way have their own plot that builds to its own climax and gets resolved, as well as setting up the last conflict between Napoleon and Wellington at Waterloo.
Only a thought.

David Anthony Durham said...

Sound advice you're getting here.

I like your ambition. Keep at it. The payoffs for all this hard work can be considerable - eventually.

I do think it's important that you deliver a solid first book, though. It can't feel like a prelude. The story has to be engaging and dramatic enough to reward and capture your readers’ attention. The characters have to face some sort of hurdles, enough so that readers finds the experience fulfilling. If they get to the end of that one and realize even better stuff is to come... well, that's just what you want.

So do find a way to keep that first book lively. It's Fiction, after all, so make some stuff up! And if some of your characters don't seem lively enough inject them with something. It's the small, idiosyncratic details that you provide that make them seem real.

Have you ever read Salammbo by Gustave Flaubert? It's so, so full of details and bizarre little things. Flaubert claimed it was all "historically accurate", but in my opinion what makes it work is how "fictionally imagined" the whole thing is. Reading it helped me make some breakthroughs for writing Pride of Carthage. Basically, I realized that the historical details are only ever a part of historical fiction. It's the fictional details that make it work.

Best of luck with it,