A bit of inspiration

I’m currently working on a full length novel that’s really been more of an exercise in how not to write (you can read the current – current! – prologue here). It’s gone through something like 5 story revisions, which on the one hand is satisfying because I feel like I’m actually working on it, rather than relying on the kindness of muses. On the other hand…

…it makes me wonder if I can ever finish it.

The novel won’t be that long – it’s about 30 pages so far into the latest incarnation, though in total there’s about 100 pages of material to be edited and revised. I’ve started doing more work (yet again) on the world building, which always helps even though it also depresses me to think of all the stuff I hadn’t thought of!

There’s been lots of little interesting things that keep getting thrown my way. A few months ago I watched Andrew Graham Dixon’s, ‘The Art of China‘, which gave me a new insight into the sort of people my lead character’s Chinese family (she is half Igbo, half Cantonese) would reference. The development of Chinese relations with Nigeria has also given me plenty of fuel for the interaction between race and class that will inform her view of the world she inhabits.

The novel is split between futuristic Guangzhou, China and Enugu, Nigeria as the lead character adjusts to her new life and learns lessons from her old one. As someone who is obsessed with the History of Science, I like exploring the mechanics of culture, the stochastic process by which they change and how much they don’t (boundary conditions. It’s all about the boundary conditions!). This has certainly helped a great deal when considering the technological aspect of the novel.

At the moment I find it quite hard to express the development of the characters, avoiding the pitfalls that leap out at me as a critical reader. I don’t really like it when people describe themselves – ok, we do that in reality, but in fiction it always feels forced if you’re not careful – but I do like putting them in situations where I can have them react differently to things from the way they would have done at the beginning of the story.

This is the issue I’m having with the lead, not least because she’s written in first person, present tense (which is absolutely exhausting) but also because she starts off the novel as a not particularly perceptive young person who is also suffering from a kind of depression.

But then I came across this picture from Write World:

and it has just sparked my imagination. For one thing, I realised, this is her, my  Chizoba Liu. Well, maybe not quite, as Chizoba is more clearly mixed-race, but her attitude is just what I would imagine an older Chizoba would have, wary but confident, watchful but not passive.

It helps to think more clearly about the woman Chizoba will become. The story is already taking a firmer shape – not so much the key events, but more how they happen – and I think my experimentations might become more successful. I tend to write the way I learn programming which generally involves lots and lots of making the same mistakes, just to make sure it actually was a mistake. Or so I tell myself.

We shall see. For now, I think I’ll stop bartering with my awkward prose, and maybe play around a bit. That’s usually how the best bits fall into place. Usually.


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