When To Start

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Having now cleared the decks of both Spiritus editing and the short story, I am finally free to move on to Book 2 – Animus. This is the one which is not so much a sequel as telling the same story from the other side, where the end is already known and the interest lies in why the bad guy is not really a bad guy, and how he ended up in such a terrible position (i.e. dead).

Because the end is known, it actually frees up options of structure as I don’t have to save up for that kind of big reveal. I don’t have to work from start to finish because the tension isn’t designed to build that way. I can but I don’t have to. There are two other options that I’m playing with at the moment. The first is to start with the end – the aftermath to Spiritus which the audience doesn’t already know – as a prologue and tell the bulk of the story as flashback. There are two problems with this: 1) prologues are advised against in every ‘how to write’ book and article I’ve ever read, and 2) it loses the present tense ‘voice’ of the story so far. The second option is to tell it in the style of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which alternates between past and future. This is quite a technical challenge, although Mary Doria’s example proves it can be done.

But (there’s always a but) there’s a crucial thing which makes it work in The Sparrow. In the past, the main character’s story is almost entirely positive and exciting; in the future, he’s an utterly broken man. The tension and draw of the book is the curiosity over what went so terribly wrong that it resulted in his future state. I need to identify a similar type of tension and draw, otherwise the appeal is somewhat lacking, and it can’t just be ‘they lost the war’ because the audience already knows that.

The original idea of Animus is to reveal how the ‘bad’ guy of Spiritus is actually a good guy making difficult decisions in impossible circumstances – the inversion conceit, as the raptor rather grandly calls it. The format and timeline of the story is critical in giving this reveal its full impact. I’m just not sure I’ve found the right one yet.

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