26th April 2020
I’ve been thinking a lot about book 3 over the weekend. I don’t have any need to start thinking about this just yet (my focus is on redrafting book 2 at the moment and that’ll keep me busy for weeks at a minimum) but given that book 2 does a little to set up a pair of characters for book 3 it’s possibly the reason my mind has wandered.
As with all the planned Shade Knight books, the idea very much starts with the antagonist. I say that rather than ‘villain’ because whilst there very much does tend to be a ‘villain of the week’ feel to the Shade Knight books, I’m doing this in a world that changes as a consequence of character actions.
So I’ve known for ages the main antagonists of Book 3: there’s a minor character from book 1 that was seeded for this book as well as a pair of characters established in book 2. I have a very simple but complete arc for the returning character; I kinda know what the pair of characters are up to… but not what exactly they are doing.
Usually the way a Shade Knight book works is that something goes on in the protagonists every day life (the “Bruce Wayne” part) and something happens with their alter ego (the “Batman” part). My job when constructing the story is to interweave these two parts. Sometimes it can be as a simple that something in storyline A is revealed to be a major part of storyline B, or it can be something as simple as the experience of a journey in storyline A, gives the protagonist insight into how to handle storyline B.
I have storyline A, and by have it… I know the basic premise. It’s very malleable at this time. With storyline B, I can see the basic shape of it, but it’s like it’s behind fog as I can’t see the details.
What the last couple of days have seen happen, is to take these very rough nebulous ideas and think about what unites them. In short, I’ve been thinking about the theme of this book. That’s interesting as theme is something that usually happens after the first draft, and yet here, in the hope to write a tighter story, it’s coming in early.
The ideas I have are so early, that I could choose a thousand themes and work around them, but I’m drawn to what I know about storyline A.
In my head, I have an epic moment playing out in my head. It’s from the book’s climax and is a pivotal moment in the story. But rather than know the details, what I’m feeling is that “fuck yeah” emotion.
What I’ve done is extrapolate that emotion, overlay it on storyline A to work out why I would have that emotion. It’s very much to do with the returning character and what they do.
I’ve been able to work backwards and establish the theme surrounding that emotional pivotal moment. As a result, I have a theme.
The next stage will be to take that theme and use it to create conflict between the protagonist and antagonists. This will all happen in the background of my head whilst I work on book 2.
This is very much the fleshing out ideas stage of the novel. I may not think about this book again for another year, and when I do return to it, it may again be fleeting, or to completely tear down the ideas I currently have.
I once heard something along the lines of: good writers work out how to write a book and then do that again and again; great writers will always try to write a book they feel is slightly beyond them. I want to constantly challenge myself with each book I write. Whilst I say there’s a formula for the Shade Knight books, that’s more the contract with the reader rather than a template story. As a result, I want the stories, whilst stand alone, to have a real sense of progress – that the world of book 3 feels different to the world of the previous books. I also want my process to evolve a lot. Book 3 might be the book where I worked with theme initially and built the story from there. Future books might do something different.
But for the moment they are just ideas and there’s no rush to decide anything.
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