Sunday, October 17, 2010

Apocalypse, Phase II

by Sophie


(First off let me say a big thank you to the Pens for the sweet post yesterday. Winning the Anthony award was a thrill for sure - but like every publishing milestone, it would mean far less if I didn't have friends to share it with. Several of the Pens were at Bouchercon with me last week, and we all had a great time gadding about and learning and listening and pontificating and, yes, happy-houring together. Yay!)

How topical of the topic to be apocalypse this week, as I am neck deep working on the second in my post-apocalyptic AFTERTIME series, called REBIRTH. I'm hot on the heels of the big finish, and it's got me thinking a lot about pacing. Earlier in the book - and in the first book - I waxed philosophical about what apocalypse means for the world. I figured out the broad-brushstroke details of my own fictional apocalypse and what it meant for humans - how many would live, what they would eat, how they would brush their teeth and so on.

At the outset, I figured that apocalypse is really a canvas for the larger theme of loss. Genre fiction provides the means to get to theme quickly and effectively, and when you can rip away a person's comforts, livelihood, sustenance, friends, and family with a quick series of events, you can get straight to the nature of their character. Loss is a big theme in the world today, as our jobs and homes and possessions become more and more vulnerable, and we all find ourselves with less than we had a decade ago.

Now, while deepening the story in the second book, I see that pace can only increase at the rate at which my own characters can be made to care about something other than survival. In the first book it was enough to show the threat (scary zombies!) and a worst-case scenario (eek! One of them is eating a victim!) and a brave escape. Now, though, I have to confront the idea that a life so difficult and fraught with danger might not be a very good one - and make my characters care anyway.

That's why it's not enough for there to be a daring escape or a spectacular paranormal reveal or even a brave battle with a hideous other. This time, my characters must regain some of their humanity, their desire to not just live but to thrive, to rediscover joy. It will be a tough challenge but if I succeed it will also be the thing that makes the story stand out.

This book is keeping my busy. Busy busy busy. In fact I am at it so feverishly that my friend Sean Doolittle made me this little image, which I adore - I love thinking of being an authorial superhero, one who keeps at it until the word count is reached and the storyline is resolved, no matter what.


Sophie Littlefield said...

just re-read this and realized exactly how bleary-eyed I was last night when I nearly lay down on the keyboard and slept. sorry i wasn't more peppy!

Juliet Blackwell said...

You make an important point about what happens *after* basic escape and survival are taken care of -- as usual in life, it's the day-to-day stuff that can wear us down even faster than the moment of emergency. Like the Chilean miners who, once they'd survived, faced the difficult task of maintaining their sanity underground for so long. Can't wait to read Aftertime, and Rebirth!!!

Martha Flynn said...

Of course you made the apocalypse all about FEELINGS and EMOTION

Unknown said...

absolutely love the Word Girl. and the post is perfect. :)

Adrienne Bell said...

We love Word Girl around here. This is my fav bit

L.G.C. Smith said...

Great post. And I love that cover. Kudos to Luna on that one.

I think you hit on some major truths here, with respect to loss and apocalypse, but also that many people's lives aren't very good (on all sorts of levels), and most still find things to care about. Or people to love. I can't wait to see what you do with that in "Aftertime" and "Rebirth." The feeding zombies...I may do a little skimming there, but the rest will be riveting.

Diana Orgain said...

Woo hoo- congratulations!

Lisa Alber said...

Hi Sophie,

I was an agent-less Bouchercon attendee this year, and I love that you won the Anthony, and I love what you had to say at the mic about your 200 rejections. Very inspiring! Congratulations! I'm looking forward to reading your books.

Cheers, Lisa Alber

Sophie Littlefield said...

awww, thanks everyone. just home after a day in the city - followup visit at UCSF for Junior, who is doing just fine, yay! LGC, I hate the idea that you would ever be forced to read flesh-feeding scenes! That would be wrong wrong wrong!!! Did i tell you how glad i was to see you, and everyone, on wednesday night?

And Lisa A....thank you. I'm either hardheaded or crazy :) I hope you had a great conference.

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